Madonna’s Hail Mary Prayer of a Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show

by | February 5, 2012 at 9:20 PM | TV News

Madonna gets Super Bowl XLVI into the groove. (Getty Images)

No, she didn’t kiss Nicki Minaj nor have a wardrobe malfunction. No, Madonna didn’t offend the Catholic Church nor the NFL, for that matter, with her 12-minute halftime spectacular (for the record, cameo singer M.I.A. did flip the bird, a lovely sideline display of class and character that could possibly upstage Madge and require a talking to), which featured, in order, what looked like the cast from ‘Spartacus,’ a full marching band, a gospel choir (of course), and Cee-Lo dressed as both a drum major and a fundamentalist preacher crossed with Supreme Court Judge. In fact, the only constituency that might have been nonplussed were those of us who thought for a moment we’d get away from LMFAO’s annoyingly ubiquitous “Party Rock Anthem.”

But no such luck, emerging from the stage looking like Elizabeth Taylor in ‘Cleopartra,’ the 53-year-old was more than ready to reclaim her throne as the Queen of Outrage from upstart Lady Gaga with an appearance that would heralds her new album ‘M.D.N.A.,’ slated for release next month.

The anticipation for the appearance spread in the Twitterverse, with @katyperry tweeting, “There’s a big game @ the Madonna concert tonight!,” while @joshgroban offered, “I’m personally hoping she’ll sing Sooner or Later from Dick Tracy but I’m not holding my breath. #superbowlssondheim.” After the sighting of a group of “a hundred peeps wearing black robes,” @blaustein tweeted, “This has the potential to be a really great Enigma video.” Meanwhile, manager Guy Oseary was documenting every step to the halftime stage with pictures and Tweets.

A fleet of Roman gladiators stomped on-stage, apparently to symbolize the “bread and circuses” aspect of the spectacle, as Madonne launched into “Vogue,” and the betting was underway on the over-under as to how much was live and how much pre-recorded.

On a bleacher set that incorporated plenty of acrobatic dancing and even a high-wire act, the Material Gal sang, “Music,” before greeting the aforementioned LMFAO (was getting them on the show part of Interscope ruler Jimmy Iovine’s deal to deliver Madonna?), who interspersed, you got it, a snippet of their hit single, before one of the two got the diva’s leg wrapped around his head.

The shameless cheerleaders-with-pom-poms football tie-in of Madonna’s new video/single, “Gimmie All Your Luvin,” followed, featuring tush bumps with both co-stars Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., recreating their roles in the clip. It was not a shining moment for either of the two hip-hop provocateurs.

Said @jawnita: “I love/hate Madonna, o.g. cultural appropriator, and I find her misuse of Minaj and MIA offensive.”

A marching band then stormed on-stage, with surprise guest Cee-Lo (NBC with another shameless plug for The Voice), Madonna lit into the most effective song of the night, a soaring version of “Like a Prayer,” which she certainly was performing live as NPR and former L.A. Times rock critic @annkpowers tweeted: “Hey she is SINGING.”

With a flash of light, and the spelled-out wish for World Peace (as online wags noted her nod to the Basketball Player Formerly Known as Ron Artest), Madonna was done, and it was time to strike the stage and what, ya mean there’s a second half of football yet to come?

So, what’s the final consensus? Some think a 53-year-old woman shouldn’t be traipsing around on a stage like a teenage cheerleader, but hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, I say. The show certainly wasn’t an outright disaster, like the Who show several years back, or even the famed Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake imbroglio back in ’04. And, the NFL was certainly acknowledging the popularity of the game to many gay fans, but was Madonna really an appropriate choice for this modern-day version of the Christians and the lions? It was like Salome doing her dance while Rome, and civilization, burns.

N’yah, if you wanted great music, you merely had to listen to the commercials… featuring songs by Echo and the Bunnymen (the Acura vampire ad), Etta James (the Bud Light spots), James Brown (Volkswagen), The Animals (H&M ad with David Beckham in his underwear), Vampire Weekend (‘Dr. Seuss: The Lorax’), New York City beat-rockers fun. Featuring Janelle Monae (Chevy Sonic ad with the sky-diving and stunt driver) and, most improbably, Barry Manilow crooning over the end of the world for Chevy Silverados, with the only things left post-apocalypse a bag of Twinkies. Too bad Hostess just went out of business. The plug would’ve sent sales through the roof.

As for Madonna, this was a win-win for her… promotion for her new album and $300-a-ticket world tour, and proof that she’s still around. Of course, the ultimate indiginity was the NFL seguing from her performance straight into a Lady Gaga tune. Somewhere, Demi Moore was nodding in sympathy… before inhaling a whippet and trying to forget all about it.