As a good Greek girl, I don’t get the appeal of games that include bats, tinny balls or steroid kings covered in layers of heavy protection gear. However, I had one reason to care about the Super Bowl – Madonna. Then again, I hardly care about Madonna in general. The last album of hers that I kind of liked was Music back in the day (and Ray of Light is one of the best albums ever released). However, I know a good performer when I see one and we have been in shortage of such artists lately. So yesterday in the wee hours of the morning, I watched with genuine interest her show during the half-time. And it was definitely worth it.
First came the trendy Gladiators. Lip-syncing aside, the lady knows how to put on a show. In stark contrast to (the latest edition of) Britney Spears, she didn’t look shallowed by the spectacle. She was surrounded by dancers dressed in golden clothes and she was still the Queen Bee. Her costume, especially the crown, were amazing. The choreography was truly eye-catching with the movements referring to Ancient Egypt. The platform was also well-designed, morphing constantly. It was clear that Madonna was not only interested in amazing middle-aged football fans screaming at the tv while eating KFC in their living room. She was aiming at an international audience.
Then Music started playing, reminding me why I liked this song so much – even though I kind of expected Ali G to pop out of a corner at any minute. However, the acrobatics were an equally enjoyable treat. The meddling of song with LMFAO’ “Party Rock Anthem” and “Sexy and I Know It” only gave an opportunity for a highly energetic dancing sequence that was so much fun to watch. Madonna even jumped on the back of one of the LMFAO guys. It was the moment I realised what I have been missing for so long from the entertainment industry – the FUN element! These highly energetic performances of charismatic artists which will make you beam like a kid.
If I said that I care for Give Me All Your Luvin I’d be lying. It sounds like a song Gwen Stefani would have produced back in the day. Furthermore, it is a sign of Peter Pan syndrome to be singing of what kind of “girl” you are when your own daughter will be reaching womanhood sooner than later. The pompoms were unnecessary as well, but they fit nicely into the marketing plan. It was also quite awkward to be watching M.I.A., who has been crafting for quite a few years a music career full of political messages, experimental music and efforts to gain “street credit”, playing Madonna’s sidekick. She was also placed in the same position occupied by Christina Aguilera during the VMA 2003 where, incidentally Madonna was also promoting her single Hollywood. Also incidentally, the role of Britney was played by a very playful Nicki Minaj in a blond wig. The lady sure loves her “it” girls. However, in the competition for the most controversial morning-after headline, M.I.A. is certainly the winner thanks to her flipping the bird (To America? To the entertainment industry? I guess we’ll never know).
Next guest: Cee Lo, the man with the big voice and a stick to die for! A quite reminder of Open Your Heart (True Blue era, 1986) followed, accompanied by hunky drummer boys in uniforms. Strangely, Like a Prayer was the perfect ending of the show. A woman who may be afraid of getting old, but not embraced of her back catalogue like other performers, she spent half the song on her knees. The presence of the huge choir and the “World Peace” sign offered the perfect occasion for the fans of both sides to start praying for the teams (and if God is around, we know which fans prayed the hardest!).
So yes, as Los Angeles Times pointed out, the performance was in every respect part of a well-orchestrated marketing plan for the promotion of Madge’s new album. However, the woman still got it and is not afraid to embrace her inner material girl, lavishing herself in gold in the midst of a financial crisis while making the whole thing look not only normal, but highly entertaining.
A interesting thing to point out though is the constant mentioning of Madonna’s age by the media and the “fans”. She is being accused of being too old to perform, while being characterised as “stiff”, but “ok for her age”. However, she does look great (for her age or any age) and she is still an excellent performer. What truly makes a performer though is not the capacity to move their hips (they can hire younger dancers to do that for them) but to be able to carry a whole show on your shoulders. The greatest dancer on earth can be a total disappointment if he/she lacks charisma. And the truth is, whether you like Madonna or not, that she does have so much charisma that nothing – not age, narcissism or safe music choices – can take it away.