After a spectacular performance that had Fergie crying into her pillow and Lady Gaga slapped firmly back in her place, Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show ended with Madge disappearing in a puff of smoke like someone dropped a house on her sister. As backup singers Cee Lo, M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, and LMFAO, dispersed, the phrase “World Peace” appeared in gold pompoms. We were surprised they didn’t read “Fuck you, Elton John.”
The feud between the two queens has a history longer than the Capulets and the Montagues, but was recently stirred back up again after the Golden Globes, where Madonna won for Best Original Song. During her acceptance speech, the cameras panned to a stony-faced Sir John (who was also up for the award), who had just finished telling Carson Daly on the red carpet that Madonna “hasn’t got a fucking chance” at winning.
Then Elton John’s partner David Furnish took to calling out Madge on Twitter and Facebook, and the whole debacle turned vicious.
Though the three reportedly made up, when asked recently if he had any advice for his adversary’s Super Bowl performance, Sir John didn’t take the high road. “Make sure you lip-sync good.,” the singer relayed in an interview with Good Morning America. Then he conceded:
Of course you have to play live, but I don’t think you can. In all fairness to everyone who’s done it before, I think you may be able to sing live, but it’s really hard to play live.
(By the way, this wasn’t the first time Elton John has accused Madonna of not singing during her performances.)
Yes, Madonna was mostly lip-syncing through the majority of the performance: throughout the fifteen minutes of strenuous calisthenics and acrobatic maneuvers, she never sounded less than radio-perfect. (The jury is still out on her “Like a Prayer” duet with Cee Lo, which sounded live despite the fact that the 53-year-old never missed a note.)
Watch the whole thing here:
Even if she wasn’t singing live, Madonna took her frenemy’s words to heart. Not content to stop at “good,” Madonna’s performance was great; earning her resounding applause from everyone from Fred Durst to Alec Baldwin and The New Yorker‘s music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, who was liveblogging the event:
I no longer believe that this performance contains any live singing, nor do I care. The song is better than I thought, now it seems as happy as it should have, maybe because of the positive pressure of live performance…
And now it’s “Like a Prayer,” my fifth favorite Madonna song. This crazy-ass video screen field is genuinely wicked. Is this maybe live singing now? Cee-Lo has been brought in to do black lame (I think) gospel robes. This sounds live, and I assume Cee-Lo is here to kill the hook. Madge knows the crowd—choose the song Americans know, and hey, election year, let’s go with prayer.
In conclusion: Did Madonna lip-sync? Probably. (Though we won’t say yes for sure, because we don’t want to get an angry call from Liz Rosenberg tomorrow.)
Did it matter? Not at all. Despite a few detractors, not even Sir Elton John nor Mr. Furnish could muster any public Haterade for a dazzling performance whose only “Fuck You” moment came not from a Cee Lo reference nor a pissed off Madonna, but from M.I.A. trying to make a statement about…lord knows what.
Maybe we need more lip-syncing during these live shows: it certainly couldn’t have hurt last year’s Black Eyed Peas debacle. And the perfect vocals allowed us to pay attention to what really mattered: Madonna’s bizarrely fantastic costume changes. As comedian Julie Klausner tweeted during the show, “Every man’s fantasy of an ancient gay icon cheerleader in front of a marching band just came true.”
What could be more apropos during a football game than that?
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