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February 6, 2012

Madonna halftime show: lots of material, little substance

Hundreds of millions looked on as a muscled mass of oiled-up gladiators yanked an enormous winged figure onto the field this past Sunday night. If I had any doubts about the extravagance of Madonna’s performance at halftime for the Super Bowl, her entrance shut me up pretty quickly. She burst out of her feathered cocoon-carriage looking as fit as ever and gave a glitzy performance that, if nothing else, at least managed to avoid the now-feared wardrobe malfunction that Janet Jackson made infamous eight years ago.

Surrounded by a back-flipping gang of dancers, 53-year-old Madge, wearing an enormous horned helmet, put on a sparkly but ultimately forgettable show. Because she clearly lip-synced the entire performance (it was so obvious that I wished she hadn’t even had her prop microphone), I expected some spectacular dancing—come on, we all know the lady can move. However, she never really got past strutting across the stage, though a random man would occasionally lift her leg or give her a flip. There was a significant amount of leg lifting in this show.

As she Vogued her way up a flight of multicolored steps, she tripped (hey audience, there’s the cringe moment we were all secretly hoping for) and bared a little bit more skin than anyone wanted to see, but overall, she made it through the performance intact.

Rapid-fire artist appearances that were more disorienting than enjoyable characterized the rest of the show. What was LMFAO doing up there? (Please, Madonna, get off that young man’s zebra-clad shoulders.) Did M.I.A. do anything besides flip off the camera and curse? Why was Cee Lo Green wearing a floor-length black sequined frock, looking like a priest who had been attacked by Liberace? Aside from his performance, the only cameo I really enjoyed was Nicki Minaj’s, which lasted less than 30 seconds. The show’s most memorable moment came not from the Material Girl or her many friends, but from a man in a toga who danced on a tightrope. Now that was impressive. I’m not quite sure why Madonna pretended to shoot him.

Though Madonna’s new song fell miserably flat (how many times can you repeat, “L-U-V, Madonna, Y-O-U, you wanna”?), I was happy to hear some of her classics. I have a weakness for “Like a Prayer,” and she did the song justice with the help of a swaying choir and a lot of smoke. She almost won me over with that as her closing piece, but just as I started to think the show would end on a high note, the camera zoomed out to reveal a massive light display that read “World Peace.” Wait, what? Which part of the performance was supposed to promote peace—the drumline or the hip-swiveling cheerleaders? That was an abrupt and confusing end to a confusing show, and I couldn’t help but laugh as the million-dollar commercials kicked back in.

Overall, the performance was entertaining in its over-the-top production, but that’s about it. The whole thing was just glitzy and loud (and considering the venue, that might be just what everyone wanted). Nip-slip avoided, the act was an expensive and safe success that will be forgotten as soon as NBC stops apologizing to everyone for the one finger that stole the show.