Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The hidden political message you probably missed in Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance

gaga-superbowl-woody-guthrie-this-land-is-your-land.jpg

Lady Gaga has never shied away from discussing political issues. Her pop empire has been largely built on the back of a fierce anti-bullying message, support for the LGBT community and advocacy for victims of sexual assault, and she was a high-profile critic of Donald Trump both during and after the US presidential election.

In order to play the halftime show at the US Super Bowl, however, Gaga was theoretically required to put her politics on ice. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest shows in many American musicians’ careers, and it’s expected that artists won’t distract from the rivalry between the football teams by bringing up something as divisive as politics.

However, some observers noticed that Gaga did sneak a political message into her performance after all – albeit a very subtle one.

gaga

"This land was made for you and me": Lady Gaga on stage at the Super Bowl.

In keeping with the Americana flavour of her latest album, Joanne, Gaga performed a rendition of the classic song This Land is Your Land during her halftime show.

With its references to highways, redwood forests and wheat fields, the track – written by iconic American folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1940 – has long been adopted as a patriotic anthem in the States. But its roots are much more radical than you might expect.


Read more: Lady Gaga says Donald Trump is “one of the most notorious bullies we have ever witnessed”


Guthrie, who died in 1967, was a fiercely political musician, known for performing with the words “This machine kills fascists” displayed prominently on his guitar. An advocate for the displaced and dispossessed working classes of the Great Depression, he was linked to the Communist Party throughout his life, and originally wrote This Land is Your Land as a response to the banks and landowners he saw as trying to take America from ordinary people.

Prophetically, the original 1940 lyrics to This Land is Your Land include a reference to “a high wall”, as well as lines which question whether the America of the past was as ‘great’ as Trump has alleged.

“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people; by the relief office I seen my people,” sang Guthrie. “As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking: is this land made for you and me?”


Read more: The most brilliantly British signs from the UK protests against Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’


In recent weeks, This Land is Your Land has been adopted by politicians and protestors alike as a rallying cry against Donald Trump’s anti-refugee immigration ban. Videos have surfaced of demonstrators singing the folk anthem at airports, waving signs saying “Be kind” and “Welcome to the USA”, while congressional Democrats opposed to the travel ban sang it in front of the Supreme Court last week.

Gaga didn’t sing the original version of Guthrie’s song at the Super Bowl, instead sticking to a later adaptation with the politics stripped from the lyrics. However, for people with a knowledge of music history, the message was clear.

Gaga followed This Land is Your Land with a performance of her own song Born This Way, one of the most famous LGBT anthems of the 21st century. On Twitter, many pointed out that Born This Way can be read as a political protest song in its own right – especially given that Donald Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, fought against marriage equality and equal rights for gay people during his time as governor or Indiana.

Hillary Clinton, for whom Gaga campaigned in the 2016 presidential election, tweeted her reaction to the latter’s subtly radical performance, writing: “I'm one of 100 million #SuperBowl fans that just went #Gaga for the Lady, & her message to all of us.”

Hats off, Gaga.

Images: Rex Features, Giphy

Related

1024.jpg

Donald Trump just got trolled by these Swedish feminist politicians

Romola edited.jpg

Romola Garai on why we must all fight to stand up for refugees

alicia-keys.jpg

Alicia Keys on the importance of activism and self-love

Comments

More

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick lined up for new thriller

"A feverish and expertly plotted tale of psychological suspense"

by Nicola Colyer
22 Jun 2017

We bloody love Kate Beckinsale’s hilarious Manspreading Action Plan

She knows exactly what to do when a man spreads his legs

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

This is what Amanda Knox’s Instagram account looks like

The Seattle native has made her feed public

by Anna Brech
22 Jun 2017

Prince Harry is still haunted by memories of Princess Diana’s funeral

‘I don’t think any child should be asked to do what I did’

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

Courteney Cox thanks friends for helping her embrace “natural” face

‘I finally look like myself’

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Father's Day celebrations to Lena Dunham's new crop

by Nicola Colyer
21 Jun 2017

Michelle Obama has the best advice for you and your girlfriends

The former FLOTUS does this with her friends every single summer

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017

The Voice’s Delta wore a dress on TV, and Twitter lost its s**t

You should have left your boobs in the dressing room, duh!

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017

Queen Helen Mirren has a message for sexist Wonder Woman critics

Watch out, dinosaurs

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017

Chrissy Teigen has leaked her own private texts to John Legend

And it hilariously sums up their 10 year relationship

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017