I honestly didn’t believe Katy Perry was playing the Super Bowl until two or three weeks ago.
It just didn’t ring true to me. While Katy Perry may be one of the biggest pop stars in the world, with seemingly countless #1 hits, she isn’t much to write home about as a performer, and the Super Bowl halftime show is supposed to be the largest stage in the world. After recent headliners like Beyoncé, Madonna, Prince, and a surprisingly great Bruno Mars last year, I really didn’t see Katy’s act working for such a high-profile, career-defining gig. I wasn’t expecting much from her performance, even after Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott were announced as special guests. Honestly, if I expected anything, it was that it would be a hot mess.
To her credit, Katy Perry’s halftime show wasn’t a hot mess.
It was filled with spectacle, costume changes, and colorful stages, but it was quite tame, maybe even neutered compared to other performances she’s put on. The most perceivably-scandalous moment proved to be the most forgettable of the night: a pseudo-grind on first special guest Lenny Kravitz during a rock-tinged version of her first hit “I Kissed a Girl”. The rest of the show was decidedly family friendly. She kicked the show with “Roar”, standing atop of a giant animatronic lion, before moving into a strange chess piece-themed “Dark Horse”, without featured rapper Juicy J. After dueting with Kravitz, Perry moved into a medley of “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” that looked like it was produced by Nick Jr. Still, it was the best part, and served as the perfect thesis statement for why she is so successful. Katy Perry is camp personified, and her self-awareness helps it work; only she could get away with dancing and singing trees and sharks without being booed, after all.
For all of the bright costumes and massive pop anthems, there was nothing truly exciting or energetic about Perry’s set. Thank goodness for her second special guest Missy Elliott, who provided a much-needed shot in the arm with a delightfully long medley of her hits that included “Get Your Freak On” and “Work It”. Perry stepped aside for the most part and gave Elliott room to really rile up the audience, and then closed the show with a fireworks display as she sang “Firework” suspended in the air attached to a big star. Again, a lot of spectacle, even awe-inspiring, but quite sedate.
Kudos to Katy Perry for rising to the occasion. The prospect of a Super Bowl halftime show must be daunting, and she didn’t disappoint. Her setlist was strong and she had great special guests. Her show wasn’t the best example of a truly exciting halftime show, but she did reaffirm her status as pop’s most reliable hitmaker and her own kind of force.
So, let’s just call it a success.