Hosting the Super Bowl Halftime show is almost like headlining the Hot 97 Summer Jam Festival now — all anyone really cares about are what special guests you’re going to bring out. Bruno Mars jammed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay welcomed Beyonce (and, uh, Bruno Mars again), and now the question remains: What surprise guests does Super Bowl 51 headliner Lady Gaga have in store for us? Gotta go big or go back to the dive bars when playing in the Lone Star State, so let’s run down some of the most likely and/or most appealing candidates.
Too easy, right? A longtime friend and mentor of Gaga’s, the father of her godson Zachary, and one of the dozen or so most famous and successful solo artists of the entire Super Bowl era, to boot. Get him rising from beneath the stage with his million-dollar Yamaha and have him duet with Gaga while tickling the ivories on an intimate opening rendition of new song “Million Reasons.”
Another obvious one — the Tame Impala psych-rock denizen co-helmed Gaga’s recent comeback single “Perfect Illusion,” and no doubt had a good deal to do with the song’s trademark screaming six-strings. If Brian May is too busy, let’s see Parker wailing on stage with Gaga as her sideman, propelling the jam to interstellar heights. And if co-producer Mark Ronson wants to come out in his shades-and-suit combo and nod along his approval, he can come too.
Sia & Sean Paul
Gaga doesn’t really have the 2016 mega-smash from her own catalog yet to really get the crowd going, so why not invite along a fellow shape-shifting, left-of-center pop savant who does? Gaga can don the Sia wig as she trades verses with the cleverly masked pop star on a galvanizing rendition of Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper “Cheap Thrills” — maybe throwing a couple bars of her own dancehall hit “Alejandro” into the mix as well. Then, Gaga makes up for three Super Bowls ago by actually bringing up Sean Paul to do his inimitable toasting, something we still haven’t gotten over Beyonce failing to do when she played “Baby Boy” in 2013.
We need a contemporaneous pop star on Gaga’s level of superstardom for her to bring out, as well, and preferably one she already has a professional connection to. The obvious choice, of course, would be to dial in Beyonce — when is it not, even? — but after performing at two of the last three Super Bowls, even the Queen is probably getting a little tired. Instead, let’s have her “3 Way” partner Timberlake on to help out with a couple of her early hits — “Just Dance” and “LoveGame,” maybe — while maybe allowing JT to excise some Super Bowl demons by mixing in a little “Rock Your Body” as well.
Even with all these high-profile collabs down, Gaga could use a final team-up to really bring the crowd to its knees; hopefully something a little bit unexpected. Mother Monster joining forces with her natural predecessor — one who has historically been pitted against her pop progeny — would be the absolute hammer, especially when their mic-meld on Gaga’s “Born This Way” turns into (you guessed it) Madge’s classic “Express Yourself,” getting all 100-million-plus viewers at home believing in love for all time.