With the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks providing fireworks at the end of the first half of Super Bowl XLIX, Katy Perry brought some too, literally.
The mega-pop star showed off her patented-blend of soft-serve sexiness at the Super Bowl halftime show, performing a medley of her biggest hits that ended with her hit Firework, which came complete with pyrotechnics and Perry rising stories above the field to sing the song.
Pepsi, the show’s sponsor, was heavily involved throughout, with on-field participants holding up lights to make the soda’s famed logo at the start of the show. Fans in the stands got involved too, waving light sticks. It felt more like an Olympic Opening Ceremony than Super Bowl halftime show, which is a major achievement for a 13-minute show in the middle of a football game. Even Twitter, which collectively dislikes everything, was impressed.
Perry emerged riding an animatronic lion and wearing a dress of fire to perform her hit Roar. She quickly transitioned into the 2014 smash Dark Horse, a performance highlighted by a 3D rendering on the Super Bowl field that appeared to make the turf turn into different shapes and sizes, like a chessboard. Perry then made a wardrobe change for a campy, childish rendition of Teenage Dream that wouldn’t have been out of place on Yo Gabba Gabba!
With the entertaining, hassle-free show, Perry proved the NFL correct in her selection as halftime — one of the few things the NFL got right this year. Perry is the world’s most followed Twitter user (64.3 million and counting) and a popular, energetic female pop star who sings songs with catchy hooks. She’s someone in the prime of her career and adored by the NFL’s target demographic: young people. Katy Perry is what a Super Bowl halftime show should be. Rather than dragging out The Who or Tom Petty for a medley of songs that were on “Greatest Hits” albums before Katy Perry was born, get someone actually relevant today.
Even if you weren’t a fan of Perry’s music, you had to be impressed with her spectacle. She brought out dancing sharks, fake palm trees and wild animals, like the lion she rode in on.
“I’m the only person in Super Bowl history to bring a lion and sharks to the show,” Perry boasted this week, although that first part is more the fault of Matthew Stafford and Barry Sanders than anything.
Perry appeared to sing much of performance live, thought she avoided any of the usual absurd lip syncing controversy by admitting this week that some of her vocals would be prerecorded given all her movement. She also stuck to her hits, unlike Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones, who all chose to play material unknown to most fans.
The Perry-only performance was top-notch, but the show slipped when its “special guest” was revealed. Perry had been hyping it all week: “When you hear the first ring of the chord, I think jaws will drop and faces will melt.”
The guest didn’t bring quite the reaction for which Perry was hoping. Speculation had ranged from Madonna to Britney to Cher, so when Missy Elliott came out, it was a halftime deflation (down to at least 9.5 PSI). Just when the Super Bowl halftime show threatened to be relevant to the current zeitgeist, Perry trots out a rapper whose last song to hit the charts was in 2008 and peaked at No. 95. Though Missy is a fine rapper, she’s probably unknown to a vast majority of the viewing audience, which is why it was so odd for Perry to hype her like she wanted fans to expect Elvis to enter the building.
Imagine the Patriots holding a press conference in the offseason, heralding their announcement as the player who will take them to the next level, and then Doug Flutie walking out from behind the curtain and you’ll get an idea of what the Missy Elliott “surprise” was like.
A real surprise would have been Taylor Swift, the mega-popular pop star with whom Perry is allegedly feuding. Now that would have melted faces.
The inclusion of Elliott was as superfluous as The Red Hot Chili Peppers last year, but at least Katy and Missy’s music has something in common. Elliott guested on a remix on that remix of Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) a few years back, so the rapper’s rhymes flowed nicely over the sleek, stylized, pop beats from music’s biggest hit-makers. But her part of the show was hardly epic and instantly forgettable.
Why everyone feels the need to bring out a special guest at the Super Bowl is baffling. It’s like telling your audience “I’m not enough.” Duets are fine, but not when they’re just for the sake of having a duet. You know who didn’t have a guest? Prince. Bruce Springsteen. Michael Jackson. The real stars don’t need it. Katy Perry didn’t need one.
Oh, Lenny Kravitz was on stage too because Lenny Kravitz is everywhere, despite having exactly two songs people can name. Though he seems like a perfectly nice, cool rock star, stop trying to make Lenny Kravitz happen. Still, it was kind of enjoyable to hear him sing I Kissed A Girl.
Perry has performed 108 shows so far in her worldwide Prismatic tour, in front of roughly two million fans combined. The expected audience for Sunday night is slightly higher: 113 million.
“I just hope that at the end of the day, [the viewers] are all smiling in unison,” Perry said this week.
Perry gave plenty reason to smile (those dancing sharks were great), but the biggest grin may be her own. She had gone on a diet before the show and cut out one of her favorite treats. After performing at the Super Bowl, however, she said she’ll eat as many Girl Scout Cookie thin mints as she can.