Madonna positioned herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars at the Super Bowl halftime show — complete with throne — but didn't have complete control of her show.
Guest singer M.I.A. flipped the middle finger to the audience after uttering a barely disguised expletive during a performance of Madonna's new single. M.I.A. was one of two guests who contributed vocals to the bubblegum pop song, "Give Me All Your Luvin'," along with Nicki Minaj. Dance rockers LMFAO and singer Cee Lo also joined the halftime show.
Madonna seemed like Roman royalty when muscle-bound men carried her extravagant throne across the football field to the stage for her opening song, "Vogue."
The singing and dancing on that song was smartly choreographed, as Madonna moved more deliberately but still adroitly in moves that took into account that she's now in her 50s. She briefly appeared to stumble at one point while trying to make a step on the stage set, but recovered in time.
She let a tightrope walker make the more acrobatic moves during a performance of "Music."
That song was augmented by dance rockers LMFAO, who performed a snippet of "Party Rock" as Madonna joined them in a brief routine.
Madonna carried gold pompons for a performance of her new single. Twitter was alight with questions about the vocals being lip synched or augmented by tapes, particularly during this song.
At the end of her lines, M.I.A. appeared to sing "I don't give a (expletive)," although it was hard to hear clearly. Her extension of a middle finger to the audience was clearly visible, though. The camera shot briefly blurred after that, but too late.
The best guest was clearly Cee Lo, who joined Madonna for the final song, "Like a Prayer." They were joined by a robed chorus in the show's most soaring performance.
With a puff of white smoke, Madonna disappeared down a trap door in the stage, and lights on the field spelled out "World Peace."
The veteran star's vocals were not strong throughout, lending to the sense of distance during the spectacle.
Earlier, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert offered some pregame patriotism. Shelton and Lambert did a twangy duet on "America the Beautiful" and Clarkson, in a simple black dress, sang "The Star Spangled Banner."