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Volume 24 No. 156
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M.I.A. Flipping Middle Finger Overshadows Madonna's Halftime Performance

For all the "pomp and excess of Madonna's Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, a single extended middle finger by guest singer M.I.A. is likely to be the most remembered piece of the show," according to David Bauder of the AP. The gesture, "accompanied by a barely disguised expletive, came during a performance of Madonna's new single, 'Give Me All Your Luvin'.'" At the end of her lines, M.I.A. appeared to sing "I don't give a (expletive)." The screen "briefly went blurred after M.I.A.'s gesture in what was a late attempt -- by less than a second -- to cut out the camera shot." NBC Sports & Olympics VP/Communications Chris McCloskey said, "Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture, and we apologize to our viewers." The NFL "blamed a failure in NBC's delay system for allowing the gesture to be seen." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said, "The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans" (AP, 2/5). A source close to M.I.A. said the singer was hit with "a case of adrenaline." The source: "She wasn't thinking. It wasn't any kind of statement. She was caught in the moment and she's incredibly sorry" (, 2/5). USA TODAY's Robert Klemko writes the incident was only a "blip on the radar of an otherwise successful production" (USA TODAY, 2/6).

EXPRESS YOURSELF: In N.Y., Jon Pareles writes, "Madonna danced her way back toward worldwide visibility Sunday as the halftime attraction for the Super Bowl, with a giant supporting cast -- gladiators, acrobats, cheerleaders, drummers, a gospel choir -- and a downright benign stance." Madonna "went all out on spectacle." She "arrived on the field to sing 'Vogue' as a gold-robed queen with a platoon of gladiators, dancing on a giant throne and doing precise, right-angle moves amid acrobats from Cirque du Soleil." “Music” brought her to the "top of a bleacher-like set surrounded by more acrobatics." As she climbed onto the bleachers, "she missed a step, though she recovered fast." Later, LMFAO joined her, "interspersing their 2011 hit 'Party Rock Anthem.'" As a chorus line of cheerleaders filled the stage, Madonna "grabbed golden pompoms for 'Give Me All Your Luvin.'" Cee Lo Green joined Madonna for snippets of “Open Your Heart” and “Express Yourself.” Then came "Like a Prayer." At the end, the "words World Peace glowed from the field in giant letters" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6). ROLLING STONE's Miriam Coleman wrote, "Madonna packed some serious spectacle into her twelve-minute halftime show" (, 2/5).

LUCKY STAR: In DC, Hank Stuever writes, "Madonna can be said to have outdone herself, executing a flashy half-time tribute to her own image but also honoring the concept of longevity and old-fashioned pop stardom" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/6). In Phoenix, Ed Masley writes, "Unless you want to get hung up on whether she was actually singing, Madonna delivered on the pre-game hype with exactly the sort of elaborate dance-pop spectacle that fans were expecting and rockists were dreading" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/6). In Detroit, Adam Graham: "Madonna delivered a whopper of a halftime show during the Super Bowl, surveying her career, sharing the stage with a smattering of today's pop stars and doing what Madonna does best: Serve up a grand spectacle" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/6). In London, Sarah Fitzmaurice writes Madonna "put on an impressive performance" (London DAILY MAIL, 2/6). ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Ken Tucker wrote Madonna "gave a joyous, unironic, open-hearted" performance (, 2/5). In N.Y., Jim Farber notes Madonna "sidelined sex in favor of spectacle." Her set "proved chaste and careful by her younger standards," but it "made up for its lack of shock-queen stunts with sheer fun, dazzle and, most of all, wit" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/6). In L.A., Randall Roberts writes despite its "success and extravagance, this whole halftime package most of all was little more than an ingeniously well planned -- and shockingly transparent -- advertisement" for Madonna's new album (L.A. TIMES, 2/6).

DON'T CRY FOR ME: On Long Island, Glenn Gamboa writes Madonna's performance "felt uncharacteristically tentative for a superstar known for breaking down barriers to get her way." It was all "sufficiently big and flashy and entertaining." It just "lacked the element of surprise that we've come to expect from Madonna." It also "lacked any sort of emotional connection" (NEWSDAY, 2/6). In Indianapolis, Harry & Schoettle wrote the show "largely fell flat." Madonna "confirmed she is no longer at the height of her popularity or provocative powers with a tame, somewhat leaden performance" (, 2/5). In California, Ben Wener notes nobody during the show "was actually live." Madonna "was the worst offender; at times it was painfully evident that her golden microphone wasn't on" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/6). In Indianapolis, David Lindquist notes Madonna also "struggled with some dance steps," and the "lip-syncing component made the royalty-themed production an empty exercise" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/6). In New Jersey, Mike Kerwick: "To Madonna's credit, she gave us a bit of everything. Roman soldiers. Female cheerleaders. A tightrope walker. But there was no cohesive theme" (Bergen RECORD, 2/6). In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes, "I can't recall the last time I saw a major TV production so desperately in need of a guiding concept" (Baltimore SUN, 2/6).'s Greg Garber wrote of the show, "Smoke and mirrors, but very little soul" (, 2/5). Meanwhile, in Chicago, Thomas Conner writes Green "didn't contribute much and seemed to be there largely as a means of promoting" NBC's "The Voice" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/6).

A MOMENT LIKE THIS: In Chicago, Greg Kot writes Kelly Clarkson's rendition of the National Anthem was "straightforward." Unlike last year, when Christina Aguilera "tried to make the song all about her and flubbed a line in the process, Clarkson gave a strong, dignified reading backed by marital drumming and a children's choir" (CHICAGO TRIUBNE, 2/6). In Tampa Bay, Eric Deggans: "Clarkson wiped away the bitter memories of Christina Aguilera's stumbles last year with a single, glorious moment" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/6). The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES' Conner writes Clarkson "provided a performance that should be game films for future Super Bowl anthem singers" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/6). The ARIZONA REPUBLIC’s Masley writes Clarkson "nailed it, infusing her version with just enough soul while keeping the flourishes minimal enough to call it tasteful" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/6). The WASHINGTON POST's Stuever writes Clarkson "delivered a model and embarrassment-free rendition of the national anthem." Meanwhile, before the anthem, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert "delivered a similarly restrained and lovely rendition" of "America the Beautiful" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/6).'s Marc Schneider wrote Shelton and Lambert sang a "rousing version" of "America the Beautiful" (, 2/5). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel: "Loved the Blake Shelton/Miranda Lambert duet. ... Kelly Clarkson's national anthem was top shelf, too" (, 2/5).