Lady Gaga has been tapped to not only belt out the National Anthem at the Super Bowl but also as the performer for a David Bowie tribute during the Grammy awards, airing February 15 on CBS. A few years ago the singer might have been deemed too controversial for such massive national exposure but her high-class tribute to Julie Andrews during the 2015 Academy Awards showed her ability to deliver to a wide audience.
The NFL announced the booking with this simple tweet:
— NFL (@NFL) February 2, 2016
The Super Bowl is regularly the highest rated TV show in any given year and last year’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots set a new record with 168 million viewers. While viewership is slightly lower at the beginning of the broadcast, as people gather their snacks and meet and greet at Super Bowl parties, organizers have still claimed to be cautious about a repeat of the 2004 halftime wardrobe malfunction that was heard around the world.
Lady Gaga is known for her love of fashion which has sometimes lead to bizarre and controversial costume choices and performances. More recently though her commentary via song, video and social media has revealed her personal struggles with self-image, and her passion to advocate for abuse victims; those strengths have fleshed out her image and moved her from the category of pot-stirrer to caring-artist.
For musicians, the Super Bowl halftime show is one of the most coveted chances for mainstream exposure and for decades it was the bastion of family-friendly entertainers like Up With People, Disney, and military performance bands. In the early 1990s the tide turned, as pop acts like New Kids on the Block (1990) and Gloria Estefan (1991) were added to accompany the children’s dance troupes and figure skaters. Michael Jackson headlined in 1992 and by 2000, pop stars including Tina Turner, Christina Aguilera and Tony Braxton were de rigueur.
The organizing committee has always made an effort to schedule acts that have broad appeal but 2004’s lineup was a bit unusual. MTV was the halftime producer, choosing Kid Rock, P. Diddy, Nelly, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for the lineup. As the halftime show wound up Timberlake executed a dance step that had him pulling at the front of Janet Jackson’s bustier. Planned or not, it exposed her tattooed and pierced breast to mid-America.
Despite complaints and investigations into broadcast indecency, since then the organizing committee has actually pushed ahead with featuring edgy pop acts. While Marilyn Manson probably is never going to show up acts like Madonna, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Prince have all headlined halftime shows. Any of those stars could have chosen to grind a personal ax on national TV, but they’ve all opted for solid, middle of the road performances.
The opening act who sings the National Anthem isn’t quite as high-risk as the halftime show but it’s still giving an artist huge national exposure. It has typically been performed by soft-rock artists like Billy Joel and Neil Diamond; in recent years wholesome artists like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Idina Menzel have filled the role. Since 1992 the anthem singer has been joined by someone performing American Sign Language of the lyrics throughout the performance. This year Lady Gaga will be joined by actress/activist Marlee Matlin who has previously appeared at the Super Bowl with Billy Joel and Garth Brooks.
The halftime show for Supberbowl 50 will feature Coldplay, Beyonce, and there is usually a special guest or two. This year Bruno Mars is rumored to show up.
Following the big game Lady Gaga will shift into tribute mode to perform several songs in a memorial segment for David Bowie during the Grammy Awards. Deadline reports the segment will be an “experiential, multi-sensory testament to Bowie’s artistry and a reflection of his limitless creativity,” according to the Recording Academy. Nile Rodgers, who had a working relationship with Bowie since 1983’s hit “Let’s Dance” will produce the tribute.