Lady Gaga’s Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show performance had everything: glitz, drones, killer choreography, star power and possibly, a hidden political message you may have missed.
Prior to Sunday’s big game, Gaga said in a press conference that the only statements she planned on making during her halftime show were the ones she had been true to throughout her career.
“I believe in a passion for inclusion. I believe in the spirit of equality and the spirit of this country as one of love, and compassion, and kindness,” Gaga said. “My performance will uphold those philosophies.”
When the performance rolled around, several news outlets reported that the singer had stayed clear of politics during the show and social media users applauded her for leaving politics out of it.
But others noticed a possible secret statement beyond her performance of “Born This Way,” a song written as an anthem for the LGBT community.
It was Gaga’s decision to include “This Land Is Your Land” after opening with Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
According to the Washington Post, the song was originally considered a “sarcastic protest song” by legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, who grew up during the Great Depression.
Ironically, the song was written in the late 1930s as a retort to Berlin’s “God Bless America,” which played so often on the radio that it irritated Guthrie, because it seemed to ignore the uneven distribution of wealth in America at the time.
According to NPR, Guthrie originally (and sarcastically) called the song "God Blessed America for Me" before renaming it "This Land Is Your Land."
The original lyrics of the song included this verse:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said 'Private Property.'
But on the backside, it didn't say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.
And this one:
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,
by the relief office I saw my people.
As they stood hungry,
I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.
Here’s a 1944 recording, which includes the former verse:
According to NPR, Guthrie’s daughter Nora suspected the latter verse was left out of the original recording because of the government’s “strong-armed reaction to such divisive art” during the early ’50s.
But the version of “This Land is Your Land” Americans know so well doesn’t contain either of these verses.
And Gaga didn’t sing either last night.
But it’s possible her decision to sing “This Land is Your Land” carried a political message in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive actions, including a travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries and a border wall with Mexico.