With a stripped, rock-inspired sound contrasting her steadfast reign as the queen of modern dance-pop, Lady Gaga’s latest studio album, Joanne, divided a legion of fans upon its release last October. Still, after hearing the LP ahead of schedule, the NFL tasked Mother Monster with uniting millions on Sunday night, when she’ll take the biggest stage in the world as the Super Bowl LI halftime show headliner.
Since her 2008 launch into the pop music stratosphere, Gaga’s name has become synonymous with the essence of spectacle, and such a legacy demands an equally jaw-dropping set at Houston’s NRG Stadium. Rumors and speculation aside, specific details about the performance have been mostly been kept under wraps, but read on for everything we do know about the extravaganza so far.
The show reportedly cost the NFL $10 million
Halftime show performers aren’t paid, though the NFL reportedly threw down some serious cash to cover Gaga’s production costs. NBC News indicated the league paid upwards of $10 million for the conception of the roughly five-song set.
Gaga will perform an aerial stunt
Yes, Pink hung from the rafters of nearly every awards show held between 2010 and 2014, but Gaga is about to take things to the next level. On Jan. 16, Page Six first reported that Gaga wanted to perform on the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium — a risky endeavor that would require intense safety precautions and, potentially, cutting a hole in the arena’s roof to allow for such a maneuver. Exact details of the stunt have yet to be confirmed; Gaga did, however, reveal the idea to soar above the crowd wasn’t hers. “My sister was like, ‘I know, let’s suspend you in the air!’” she told the hosts of Boston’s Mix 104.1 radio program on Monday.
During the official halftime show press conference on Thursday, Gaga remained tight-lipped on the dynamics of the stunt.
“I don’t want to give that away… it is a tremendously athletic show, and it’s something we really talked about when we were creating the halftime experience,” she said. “It’s important for us to consider high adrenaline. When you’re watching football, you’re watching guys crash into each other… it’s a pretty intense situation, and I didn’t want the halftime show to take a dip. It’s going to be a good time.”
Expect a guest or two
It’s a long-standing tradition for halftime show headliners to bring a famous face — or two, or four, or Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee-Lo Green, LMFAO, a fleet of Cirque du Soleil acrobats, and an entire gospel choir, as Madonna did in 2012 — with them onstage. Gaga has neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of teaming up with her peers during the performance, but she certainly has a deep well to pull from. Mark Ronson, Bloodpop, and Josh Homme, who crafted tunes for Joanne, have played several live shows alongside Gaga in recent months. She’s also worked with several rappers (Flo Rida, R. Kelly, Wale, T.I.) in the past, and notably featured Houston native Beyoncé on her 2010 single “Telephone.”
On Wednesday, Gaga posted an Instagram photo from the Texas city and included the bee emoji commonly associated with the former Destiny’s Child frontwoman’s army of fans otherwise known as the Beyhive. Gaga told journalists gathered at Thursday’s press conference she “wouldn’t read into” her use of the emoji.
She did confirm at the press conference that Cheek to Cheek collaborator Tony Bennett will appear in a video countdown alongside Gaga on Sunday.
Gaga collaborated with her longtime creative team, Haus of Gaga, on the performance
From the meat dress she wore at the 2010 VMAs to the vessel (a.k.a. “the egg”) she rode to the 2011 Grammy Awards, Mother Monster’s personal creative team has crafted some of Gaga’s most iconic looks to date. Dubbed “Haus of Gaga,” the collective, comprised of artists, fashion designers, stylists, and managerial staff, oversee the creation of various props, costumes, and visuals for most of the star’s media, and their skills won’t be sitting on the sidelines as their muse takes the field on Sunday.
“I have some wonderful friends who are really creative and talented. I’ve been working with them for a really long time – we just got tattoos that say ‘Haus’ – we call ourselves Haus of Gaga, we work together and we’ve been working together for a long time,” Gaga told Mix 104.1 during a recent interview. “So, we sit down and talk about what we want to say to the world and what we want the world to feel that day and say to each other. We talk a lot about the tremendous honor that it is to have that kind of a voice. We, I guess, ruminate with everyone’s ideas and we put the best ones together.”
According to Gaga, she spent nearly two months designing the show’s sets, choreography, pyrotechnic displays, and costumes.
“I don’t like to use the word ‘cram’ when it comes to fashion, but I don’t want to give away how many costume changes I’m doing,” she said at Thursday’s presser. “There will be no meat dress there, so don’t wait for that. Get excited to see something that you haven’t seen before. We put everything that we could in this show.”
“Bad Romance” will be featured in a set that will span Gaga’s entire career
During a short Q&A session ahead of Sunday’s big night, the Oscar-nominated pop icon admitted it was difficult to choose a lineup for the performance, though she’s confident the end result will please fans and newcomers alike.
“It was hard but it made me really proud of all the work we’ve done. I think we picked the best songs for this,” she wrote.
Speaking to Mix 96.5 radio host Lauren Kelly in January, Gaga revealed “fans can expect a performance that spans [her] career so far.”
Pepsi previously released a video preview of the Feb. 5 event, teasing a planned dance routine to “Bad Romance” staged by longtime Gaga choreographer Richy Jackson.
Don Lawrence worked with Gaga for six days to prep her voice
The famed vocal coach has been tapped to train Gaga’s voice between Tuesday and showtime, after prepping her rendition of the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50, to sing her Oscar-nominated track “Til It Happens to You” at the 2016 Oscars, and as she recorded Joanne at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Lawrence has been working with Gaga since she was a teenager, admitting to The New York Times he agreed to teach her for a special, low rate after hearing her voice for the first time.
The show will continue Gaga’s legacy of championing equality
She stomped for Hillary Clinton on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, established the anti-bullying Born This Way Foundation in 2012, spoke out against the military’s controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2010, and championed kindness and humanity alongside the Dalai Lama at the 2016 Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis. Now, with her halftime show performance, Gaga plans to kick off 2017 with a message of acceptance and compassion.
“Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us, so this performance is for everyone. I want to, more than anything, create a moment that everybody who’s watching will never forget — not for me, but for themselves,” she said on Thursday. “The only statements I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I have been consistently making throughout my career. I believe in a passion for inclusion, I believe in the spirit of equality, and [I believe] the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness, so my performance will uphold those philosophies.”
She continued: “One of the things I’m most excited about for this halftime show… I really feel like it wasn’t given to me, it was given to [my fans]. Essentially, that kid who couldn’t get a seat at the cool kid’s table or that kid who was kicked out of the house because his mom and dad didn’t accept him for who he was, that kid’s gonna have the stage for 13 minutes, and I’m excited to give it to them.”