She had come to Indianapolis to feminize, kitsch, and queer the Super Bowl, and by that measure her 12 minutes were a success. Madonna’s genius as an artist has been to remove subtext and eliminate the underground, to put everything out in the open. (I mean, she published a sex book called Sex.) This doesn’t mean she is free of mystery (do you understand “Like a Prayer”?), but, for decades, her entire point is that everything good and important should be mainstream. No one should hide or be hidden. There is no shame in whoever you are.
It’s true that this message was more exciting coming from a 33-year-old Madonna than from the current 53-year-old version. But I’d rather get it from her than from, say, the importantly self-important Lady Gaga, Madonna’s most aggressive acolyte. With Gaga, every anthem is a hashtag. With Madonna, the anthems have actually lasted. At the height of her powers, Madonna wouldn’t have been asked to go near the Super Bowl (as Gaga today would never be), but last night was a reminder that she’s far from irrelevant.
She knows that she and football have nothing to do with each other, but her show managed to embrace womanliness and flamboyance in a way that didn’t affront masculinity. Nothing homosexually gay happened on that stage. But it seemed to liberate people who watch sports both casually and obsessively to observe, with what sounded like a degree of amused catharsis, how gay Madonna’s show felt. For a moment, we got a break from “no homo.” Still, you wonder whether Elton John, George Michael, or Adam Lambert performing the same show would have produced the same sense of relief — or just panic. That’s not Madonna’s barrier to break. That’s the NFL’s.”
Writer Wesley Morris, deciphering Madonna’s halftime show, in Grantland.com