Madonna positioned herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars at the Super Bowl halftime show — complete with throne — but didn't have complete control of her show.
Guest singer M.I.A. flipped the middle finger to the audience after uttering a barely disguised expletive during a performance of Madonna's new single.
The British rapper was one of two guests who contributed vocals to the bubblegum pop song, Give Me All Your Luvin', along with U.S. rapper Nicki Minaj. Dance rockers LMFAO and singer Cee Lo Green also joined the halftime show.
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Madonna seemed like Roman royalty when muscle-bound men carried her extravagant throne across the football field to the stage for her opening song, Vogue.
The singing and dancing on that song was smartly choreographed, as Madonna moved more deliberately but still adroitly in moves that took into account that she's now in her 50s. She briefly appeared to stumble at one point while trying to make a step on the stage set, but recovered in time.
M.I.A. gestures with a middle finger during the halftime show, prompting apologies from the NFL and NBC. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
She let a tightrope walker make the more acrobatic moves during a performance of Music. That song was augmented by dance rockers LMFAO, who performed a snippet of Party Rock as Madonna joined them in a brief routine.
Madonna carried gold pompons for a performance of her new single Give Me All Your Luvin'. Twitter was alight with questions about the vocals being lip synched or augmented by tapes, particularly during this song.
At the end of her cameo, rapper M.I.A. appeared to sing "I don't give a [expletive]," although it was hard to hear clearly. Her extension of a middle finger to the audience was clearly visible, though. The camera shot briefly blurred after that, but too late.
The NFL and NBC wasted little time in responding.
Madonna, clad in gold and black gladiator gear, was carried on stage by an army of Roman soldiers. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
"The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans," said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna's halftime show.
The risqué moment came during the biggest TV event of the year. 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.
"The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show," NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey said. "Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers."
Madonna's best guest was clearly Cee Lo Green, who joined her for the final song, Like a Prayer. They were joined by a robed chorus in the show's most soaring performance.
With a puff of white smoke, Madonna disappeared down a trap door in the stage, and lights on the field spelled out "World Peace."
The veteran star's vocals were not strong throughout, lending to the sense of distance during the spectacle.
Earlier, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert offered some pregame patriotism. Shelton and Lambert did a twangy duet on America the Beautiful and Clarkson, in a simple black dress, sang The Star Spangled Banner.