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The NFL chose to keep fans in suspense regarding their choice of artist for Super Bowl 50’s opening number, holding out until the week of the big game to announce that the National Anthem would be delivered by Lady Gaga.
The news about Gaga, always a polarizing figure, drew a slate of mixed audience reaction regarding her latest achievement. Which is to be expected: After all, this is the artist who drew ire for rewriting select lyrics of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at 2013’s NYC Gay Pride Parade, the last time she performed the Anthem publicly.
[Related: Stars at Super Bowl 2016]
However, love her or hate her, it’s hard to deny Gaga’s earned her place at the U.S.’s most-watched broadcast (a post which she told NFL Network was “one of the highest honors of my career”). The singer, who turns 30 next month, enjoyed an extraordinary run in 2015 – stunning with her performance at the 2015 Oscars, earning a Golden Globe for her turn on American Horror Story, and scoring Oscar and Grammy nominations for 2016. She is scheduled to follow the Super Bowl this month with a high-profile appearance at the Grammys, spearheading a tribute to the late David Bowie, and is scheduled to release an album this year.
Not bad for an artist who just three years ago was stinging from the decidedly lackluster response—okay, many called it a flop–to her third studio album, Artpop.
And she kept it going at the Bowl. The only flops present at the opening of the game were any betting types flip-flopping on the merits of Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning. Meanwhile, anyone betting on Gaga was, in short, a winner.
The star, garbed quite conservatively – for her – in a subtly sparkly red pantsuit with matching eyeshadow, showed off her classical musical leanings of late; delivering a straightforward, flawless interpretation of the Anthem that had Levi’s Stadium fairly vibrating with the power of her voice.
As she hit the highest notes, the crowd matched her volume in a roar of sheer approval – quite possibly the loudest and most enthusiastic response heard in years. Several of the players themselves appeared mesmerized, rocking back and forth on the sidelines to her voice and wiping away tears.
Super Bowl 50 may prove to be Peyton Manning’s last game ever, but it’s a safe bet that this won’t be the last big event for Gaga.
Gaga’s Anthem at Super Bowl 50 was the latest in a near-decade long stretch of female performances, joining the ranks of such powerhouse vocalists as Idina Menzel, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Hudson. The last male singer to deliver the Anthem at the Super Bowl was Billy Joel, in 2007.
Gaga was accompanied by actor Marlee Matlin, who interpreted the Anthem in sign language. She was preceded by the Armed Force Chorus, who performed “America the Beautiful.”