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Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show: The Full Story
In Depth

Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show: The Full Story

The most demanding performance of her career, Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show proved once again why she will always be the “Queen Of Pop”.


There was a lot riding on Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show. Having agreed to perform at Super Bowl XLVI on 5 February 2012, the “Queen Of Pop” knew the biggest promotional platform in the world would boost sales of her MDNA album in an era where chart positions still mattered.

Everyone knew this was a big deal. “The Super Bowl is kind of like the holiest of holy in America,” Madonna said ahead of the event. “I’m going to come in halfway between the church experience and I’m going to have to deliver a sermon that’s going to have to be very impactful… I have to put on the greatest show on Earth in the middle of the greatest show on Earth.”

Listen to the best of Madonna here.

More than 114 million viewers who watched Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show knew at once she had nailed it with a sweep through some of the best Madonna songs and a plug for new single Give Me All Your Luvin’. There was even a small controversy when guest artist M.I.A. spontaneously gave the camera the finger – not quite up there with Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, but a nice touch, nonetheless. After all, it wouldn’t be classic Madonna without a whiff of controversy…

A knowing, camp spectacle blending the old and the new

The performance started as it meant to go on – a huge cast of supporting artists, razor-sharp choreography and a sizeable dose of opening theatrics. Carried onto the set by a battalion of dancers in dramatic neo-classical styling, Madonna predictably rose from a throne (what else?) to perform Vogue with some state-of-the-art video effects lending 1990’s worldwide best-selling single an extra wow-factor. As the latest in a run of US Madonna No.1 singles, Music begun the next chapter, where Madonna was joined by LMFAO, who managed to mash the Mirwais production with their recent dance cuts Party Rock Anthem and Sexy And I Know It (both hits the previous year). From the off, Madonna’s performance was a knowing, camp spectacle blending the best of the old and the new.

Madonna used those opening minutes to demonstrate her sharpest moves, offering a near-faultless demonstration of her determined dance athleticism; she has always known that her combination of performance-pop theatre and commanding musicianship made her one of the biggest musical icons of all time. With so much dancing to do, this was no time for worrying about vocal delivery, so the show was lip-synched. No one cared. Expectation around every Super Bowl halftime show leans towards grand spectacle, and Madonna’s was created with input from Cirque Du Soleil and regular choreographer Jamie King, delivering on that brief to an enormous scale.

Something close to a religious experience

Madonna was joined by Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. for a spirited run-through of MDNA’s launch single, which would subsequently make the US Top 10. Final guest Cee-Lo Green joined her for the final moments – the Like A Prayer segment – which opened with a few elements of Open Your Heart and Express Yourself, giving true believers that extra headrush. At times, for Madonna fans, her “sermon” truly did feel something close to a religious experience. And that was before the massed choir turned up…

Then, in a puff of smoke, Madonna descended downwards offstage with the message “World Peace” illuminating the crowd. The 12 minutes, which had passed in a flash, were over, and Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show immediately went down as the most-watched in history. There was a small fuss to settle, with M.I.A. forced to apologise and possibly hand over some money, but no matter, it kept the lawyers busy for a day or two…

More importantly, Madonna had reminded the music-buying public what all the fuss was about, and MDNA would go on to top the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s rumoured she subsequently cried with relief that it had gone without a hitch, but the devoted always knew she had the ability to pull something like this off.

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