In her element for the world to see


To label the selection of Madonna as a halftime performer at the Super Bowl as curious is to neglect the surreal history of what has become one of the year’s most discussed 10 minutes of music on American television. From the high-water mark Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake nip slip to the weird non sequitur Rolling Stones gig to a children’s choir singing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” the Super Bowl has never been short on ridiculousness.

But all different kinds of musical craziness had nothing on this year’s Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show performance. Madonna was defiantly unconcerned with the more conservative red state wing of the football fan base who’d never be caught dead singing along to one of her songs, and her halftime show was pure spectacle by the Cleopatra of the game.

Think about it. In less than 10 minutes, America watched marching warriors pulling a massive chariot; faux trumpeters announcing the arrival of Madonna; a man named Redfoo with a ridiculously large afro fronting a duo called LMFAO; a polyglot British-Sri Lankan rapper slyly flipping the bird at the camera; a cartoonish multiple-personality Nicki Minaj; and a charismatic Buddha of a singer with a golden voice in one of the best bandleader outfits ever created, to say nothing of his stunning black choir robe.


At the center of it all was Madonna in her element, vogueing with a break-dancing lyre player, riding a bejeweled human serpent, slipping into her best single of the ‘00s, “Music,” dancing near a tightrope walker who did a back flip as she passed, and sitting on Redfoo’s shoulders during a mash-up with LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” We saw Madonna looking absolutely silly as a 53-year-old cheerleader with equally noncheerleaders M.I.A. and rapper Minaj, and, perhaps most improbable of all, Madonna in front of a church choir pretending to be chaste.

In fact, if you break down the show, produced by Stuart Davis (known to dance fans under his moniker Les Rhythmes Digitales), the whole thing was arguably more outrageous than the notorious Jackson nipple shot. Madonna’s new album, “MDNA,” is a sly reference to the drug Ecstasy; M.I.A.’s father was part of a Sri Lankan rebel group called the Tamil Tigers (once listed as a terrorist group by the State Department); LMFAO is an acronym in text slang for “laughing my

But despite its success and extravagance, this whole halftime package most of all was little more than an ingeniously well planned -- and shockingly transparent -- advertisement for “MDNA,” and not much more.

The rollout for the album began with the announcement that she’d be performing at the Super Bowl and was teased by a music video released Friday for her new single, “Give Me All You’re Luvin’,” featuring Minaj and with a remix also featuring LMFAO, which, of course, she performed. Talk about marketing to a lot of eyeballs.

But then Madonna is Madonna for a reason. And we saw it firsthand Sunday.