Much to my chagrin, Adele declined an offer from the National Football League in August of 2016 to perform during the halftime show of Super Bowl LI. She realised that the event was more of a garish circus than a celebration of music: ‘First of all, I’m not doing the Super Bowl… I mean, come on, that show is not about music.’
Judging from last year’s performance by Beyoncé, she was right. The music was not exactly at the forefront of proceedings. It was more about the choreography, production values and, of course, an ever-so-subtle political message. Beyoncé’s performance featured dancers clad in gear evocative of the Black Panthers and one dancer held up a sign reading ‘Justice 4 Mario Woods’ — referring to an African-American man who was shot dead by police in 2015.
I’m bracing myself for another performance at this year’s Super Bowl of a decidedly political bent. Lady Gaga is providing the half-time entertainment, and she’s planning to sing atop the dome of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Sunday. The NFL has denied banning her from making a political statement and it will be no great surprise if she does deliver a message of anti-Trump righteousness while she’s up on that roof. Last year, Gaga was photographed protesting outside Trump Tower, and campaigned for Hillary Clinton during the election.
In the current climate it’s difficult to imagine a wildly-successful, right-leaning performer securing a Super Bowl gig and getting away with expressing support for Donald Trump. To be fair, it would be tough to find one as The Donald found out for himself when hawking around for performers for his inauguration concert. However, such a display of courage would undoubtedly be more intriguing than whatever Gaga comes up with. On Thursday, she said her performance would make a statement about ‘inclusion’ and ‘equality’, which sounds ominous. I’m betting a message along the lines of ‘Not My President’, ‘Love Trumps Hate’ or something equally banal is also on the way.
At the very least, one hopes for something less hysterical than her pop queen predecessor, Madonna, who threatened to blow up the White House at the recent Women’s March on Washington. If Gaga does as I expect, the die will surely be cast and lefty rants will become the norm for Super Bowl half-time shows for every year that Trump’s president. For many Britons, this will just be an added reason to not bother watching American football in the first place.
The hysteria since the new president’s inauguration has been all-consuming and exhausting. While politics and sport will forever be intertwined, it would be nice to to enjoy this weekend’s action with all talk of Trump left on the sidelines. A couple of hours peace and quiet would be most welcome.