Wherever you stand on Lady Gaga and her rainbow-coloured oeuvre, her Super Bowl performance last night meant different things. While some felt her performance had too many political undertones, others felt there weren't enough. But for her Little Monsters — the star's most colourful fans whom she was very vocal about dedicating her entire 13-minute spot to — her performance was exactly what they wanted. And Gaga's outfit carried the exact hidden political message they needed.
Whether you speak her language or not, it's helpful to separate the Lady from the Gaga. Her fans include die-hard pop music fans who read into her lyrics so deeply that a ticket to the Monster Ball feels more like a trip to church, and there are those who simply come for the star's (enormous!) entertainment value. The latter felt like her mid-performance shout-out to her parents watching in the audience was perhaps the most American thing she could have done (save for a jump off the roof, à la our imagined version of Hillary Clinton's exit from the Javitt's Centre after she shattered the glass ceiling on November 8th). But Gaga's loyal, ride-or-die fans were instead focusing on her custom Versace bodysuit.
To fully grasp the significance of the look, we have to backtrack a bit, to the 2010 Grammys, when she performed with Elton John in a six-minute slot that was later deemed too political. The singer wore a custom green, shoulder-padded bodysuit by Armani Privé, accessorised with a pair of hot pink eye patches shaped like upside-down triangles, which were presumably a take on the gay rights movement symbol of the '70s and '80s. And it wasn't just eye patches: the star wore variations of the motif throughout the show. (The pink triangles are part of a popular logo that reads 'Silence = Death,' and is still considered an important activist symbol of the LGBTQ rights movement today.) That Grammys performance included the debut of "Born This Way," one of her many disco protest songs, which came under fire for being too empowering for women and gay rights (with most of the backlash from her gay fans).
And in yet another ode to her Little Monsters last night, the provocateur replicated that Grammys look, complete with an updated, silver version of those eye patches. However, despite the significance of Gaga's Super Bowl look, many of the singer's fans felt her performance wasn't political enough. That's surprising, and unfair, even, considering those same fans have criticised the star for being too politically vocal or pandering to the LGBTQ community in the past.
Beyond the clothes, the lyrics in Gaga's Super Bowl performance were poignant, too: She opened with a protest song, "This Land Is Your Land," imbued with messages of racial and socio-economic inclusiveness. Seconds later, she moved on to an important verse from "Born This Way," which includes the line, "No matter gay, straight, or bi / lesbian, transgender life / I'm on the right track, baby, I was born to survive / No matter black, white, or beige, Chola, or orient-made / You're on the right track, baby / You were born this way." A large portion of the performance's viewership — both fans and non-fans — seem to have missed this part, too. (Even her second jump from the podium she landed on was a throwback to her Grammy's performance, too, but only a paws-up Little Monster could catch that.)
For perhaps the most important dance of her career, Lady Gaga invited all walks of fans into her world, a safe-space that welcomes (and celebrates) every colour and every creed. The NRG Stadium wasn't just the stage for America's most beloved sport last night; it also served as a sort of electric chapel for one of the world's most controversial artists to carry out the most important, powerful, and inclusive message: the message of love. She did so with a keyboard guitar on her back, a disco stick in her hand, and a pair of six-inch heels on her feet. And if you ask us, well, it doesn't get more political than that.
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