REVIEW: Lady Gaga dives into old hits for Super Bowl halftime show

Michael Nied

Few artists have impacted popular culture in the manner Lady Gaga has since making her mainstream debut with “Just Dance” in 2008.

Equal parts consumer and creator, Lady Gaga was birthed unto the world packaged as the idyllic pop star for a new era. Delivering soaring vocals and synth-laden productions coupled with sometimes inarguably weird imagery, she was ready to set the world on fire.

One part traditional pop star, one part revolutionary provocateur, Lady Gaga possessed a spark that enchanted the nation.

This spark was on display as Lady Gaga took the stage in Houston’s NRG Stadium to perform the halftime for Super Bowl LI Sunday evening.

In the nine years since Lady Gaga’s debut she’s gone through countless reinventions. She’s played the fame-obsessed futuristic pop star, the couture-wearing provocateur, the pop art Aphrodite princess, the jazz songstress — you get the picture.

Most recently she’s getting down with some folksy Americana on her latest album “Joanne,” but underneath the showmanship and costumes Gaga’s talent and her commitment to her craft remain evident.

Since her performance at the Super Bowl was announced, fans and critics alike have speculated what form her show would take. Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga possesses an aura of mystery. She’s proven herself more than capable of delivering spectacles every time she steps on a stage, and everyone had an opinion about what to expect for an event like the Super Bowl.

In true Gaga fashion, she left everyone guessing up to the last moment.

There was no meat dress in sight this time around. Lady Gaga opted out of inviting famous friends to join her onstage. It was all Lady Gaga, pop star extraordinaire.

And don’t forget her trusty disco stick.

The performance opened 260 feet in the air as Lady Gaga performed “God Bless America” in front of a starry nebula of drones. Dressed in a bedazzled silver leotard, the hitmaker delivered a powerful vocal performance of the classic while the drones twinkled behind her.

“Liberty and justice for all,” Gaga announced before leaping from the roof of the stadium and floating down to her stage on the ground.

Once she landed from the impressive stunt, Lady Gaga broke into a career-spanning medley of hits including the likes of “Just Dance,” “Poker Face” and “Telephone.”

Opting to keep the production relatively simple, Gaga performed with a crew of dancers and a full band in front of a futuristic landscape of metallic structures. The stripped back staging provided Gaga with an opportunity to showcase her vocals and impart a message upon her viewers.

The message was one of acceptance that seemed perfectly tailored to the exhausting political tribulations that have challenged Americans in the last year.

An outspoken advocate for equality, it was rumored that Lady Gaga would attempt to directly combat some of the decisions made by freshly inaugurated President Donald Trump; however, she instead used the stage as an opportunity to remind Americans of their strength while unified.

It is “liberty and justice for ALL,” after all.

This was evident as Gaga moved into 2011’s “Born This Way.” The empowering anthem was particularly poignant, as it proclaimed the beauty of all people from different walks of life. “I’m beautiful in my way / ‘Cause God makes no mistakes,” Gaga passionately reminded viewers.

Though the track usually feels a little overblown and heavy-handed, it was the perfect reminder to a divided America.

“We’re here to make you feel good,” Gaga pronounced as she transitioned into a piano-led rendition of her current single “Million Reasons.” Ever a reliable balladeer, Lady Gaga’s vocals were at their strongest.

The performance seemed to give the artist a moment to reflect on the enormity of the event, as she gave her parents a shout out in the midst of the number.

This was the only song present from 2016’s “Joanne,” a choice that seems to signify another shift in the artist’s eternally evolving image. Could Gaga be moving away from the distressed jorts, feathered hat and introspective performances of the last few months in favor of a return to her pop roots? Hopefully, yes, but, knowing Lady Gaga, she’ll keep us guessing.

After a quick costume change Gaga and her dancers capped off the halftime extravaganza with a rendition of her most recognizable hit, 2009’s “Bad Romance.”

Eschewing the recent tradition of ending the Super Bowl halftime on a power ballad (think Beyonce’s “Halo” or Katy Perry’s “Firework” finales), Lady Gaga went out in a pyrotechnic bang while traipsing across the stage and delivering a commendable vocal.

As fireworks went off above and her final notes resonated through the stadium, viewers witnessed one of the most deserved mic drops of all time, before Lady Gaga leapt from the stage.

With a bare minimum of the frills associated with a typical pop show, Lady Gaga delivered a commendable performance at Super Bowl LI. The performance showcased her artistry effortlessly and reminded viewers of the extravaganza that is her career.

In just over 13 minutes Lady Gaga proved that her career is anything but a perfect illusion; it’s a perfectly flawed reality that is the result of years of hard work and drive, extraordinary talent, heaps of glitter and that special something that elevates a pop star to the pinnacle of popular culture.

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer for the Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected]