Missy Elliott Transcends Katy Perry’s Polished Super Bowl Pep Rally

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 02.01.15 in News

With Katy Perry, what you see is what you get. Like Bruno Mars last year, she’s a proven hitmaker unlikely to ruffle many feathers. As a bonus, a few of her songs lend themselves well to sports (the one about “Eye of the Tiger,” the quasi-trap song “Dark Horse,” and the cue for a “Firework” display). Plus, she has a brightly colored visual sensibility that’s likely to make for better TV than, for better or worses, musicians actually playing instruments. (I didn’t spot Perry guitarist Casey Hooper, by all accounts a gifted and hard-working player.)

Perry provided all of that in her halftime show for Super Bowl XLIX, between the New England Patriots and defending champion the Seattle Seahawks, riding out for “Roar” on an elaborate lion-like contraption and belting “Dark Horse” on a Lewis Carroll-worthy chess board. Announced guest Lenny Kravitz joined her on guitar and vocals, doing little more than removing her early hit “I Kissed a Girl” yet another step from carrying any meaning that might upset rather than titillate Rick Santorum voters. “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” were the polka-dot bubblegum-pop highlights you’d expect.

Missy Elliott was the performer on that stage with the most formidable discography, and she was never officially announced; I might be wrong, but I don’t think I even heard her name on the loudspeaker as she took the stage. Her role was a variation on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ last year — a bit of anarchy in the midst of a stultifyingly stage-managed pseudo-spectacle — and in her case it could hardly have been more welcome. She got only three songs, but they were among her best (“Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control”).

Not even Perry shouting over Missy, at what seemed like a higher volume than the performer whose song it was, could dampen the joy. When fireworks went off, they were appropriate for a massive, Budweiser-sponsored sporting event, but there were no worries about the headliner putting the lights out. If Beyoncé was watching, she wasn’t losing any sleep — unless she stayed up for an impromptu all-Missy dance party.

Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX setlist

1. Roar
2. Dark Horse
3. I Kissed a Girl (with Lenny Kravitz)
4. Teenage Dream
5. California Gurls
6. Get Ur Freak On (Missy Elliott)
7. Work It (Missy Elliott)
8. Lose Control (Missy Elliott)
9. Firework