Fresh off Lady Gaga’s Golden Globe win for her portrayal as a wacky ingenue lookin’ for love in American Horror Story: Hotel, she will now embark on her biggest role yet: the lucky fool who gets to belt out the “Star Spangled Banner” to a stadium full of beer-addled football fans who are acting out their battle for America via sport. We can only hope she does it dinner-theater style.
Gaga will be the pre-game entertainment for the Broncos-Panthers showdown, and will act as the prologue to Coldplay’s halftime jam, also starring Beyoncé and, reportedly, Bruno Mars. But Bey and them aren’t her biggest challenge, one bit; this is coming on the 15th anniversary of Whitney Houston’s Super Bowl performance, which is looming large enough in hearts and minds to have sparked at least two retrospectives that I know about, including the astonishingly beautiful “When Whitney Hit the High Note,” by Danyel Smith for ESPN The Magazine.
In that piece, Smith describes beautifully why Houston was so great, and elucidates what Gaga’s up against:
Most singers want out of that song. Most reach awkwardly for one note or another, or miss it altogether. It’s not just that the song is a difficult one. It’s difficult in front of people who want to feel the pride in the storybook words. They want to wave their ball caps and whoop in the pause after O’er the land of the free. They want to be landlords in the home of the brave. Whitney’s version made it all absolute, for a moment. Her arms were wide and reaching slightly up at the end, a pose familiar to many Americans, across races. Her head was back, as one’s can be when victorious, and as one’s can be when asking for and ecstatically receiving the glory of God.
Gaga can very likely hit the notes, but can she administer the eucharist? Maybe, maybe not; the only thing we can really hope for is that she doesn’t try to dab. Pray for a Tony Bennett collabo!
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Image via AP