BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
HOUSTON – Wherever there is Lady Gaga, there is often Tony Bennett, and that will be the case during Sunday’s Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show.
The pop singer’s mentor will make a special appearance during the 10-second countdown to Gaga’s performance – on video, that is – and he also provided the “Born This Way” hitmaker with some advice.
“(Tony) always encourages me to just tell the story of the song. My friendship with him is one of the most valuable things to me – he’s an incredibly wise man,” Lady Gaga said from the podium during her Thursday afternoon press conference to discuss her halftime show.
As expected, she wanted to keep most of the details secret. Although an Instagram post Wednesday included a bee emoji – leading some to speculate it was a winking hint that Houston native Beyonce might make a guest appearance – Gaga said not to read anything into it.
She did, however, send flowers to her fellow pop diva yesterday when she heard the pregnancy heard-round-the-world news.
Sporting a red, blue and grey ensemble with matching shoes, Lady Gaga, who is the first-ever back-to-back Super Bowl performer (she handled the national anthem last year) fielded questions from a couple of celebrity interviewers.
Terry Bradshaw called her, “the biggest star I’ve ever looked at,” and brought an autographed football over to Gaga’s mom, Cynthia, who was seated in the front row along with Papa Gaga, Joe Germanotta.
Bradshaw tried to get Gaga to spill on her song selection, but sorry bettors, she wasn’t biting.
“It’s going to be a surprise,” she said, noting that she and her team combed her career arsenal to choose what to perform.
Olympic gymnast Simone Biles wanted to know about the level of athleticism in Gaga’s performance (rumor has it there will be a roof involved), but the singer deflected again, only confirming that it’s “an incredibly athletic show.”
The diminutive Biles also had some advice – “Make sure you have fun and remember all of your memories.”
One thing we won’t see on Gaga Sunday – that infamous meat dress. Or a wardrobe malfunction (if you recall, Houston was the site of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake scandal in 2004).
“Everything is going to be nice and tight for the game,” she said.
Gaga also promised a message of inclusion, but has no plans to make any kind of statement from the stage.
“Music has the power to unite us. This performance is for everyone,” she said, later adding, “That kid who couldn’t get a seat at the ‘cool’ table or that kid who was kicked out of his house because of who he was…that kid is going to have the stage for 13 minutes.”