More cartoon character than gridiron warrior, Katy Perry will bring some whimsy to the Super Bowl tonight.
“Everything I’ve done in my career hasn’t been blatant this or that,” she told the Associated Press ahead of her halftime performance Sunday in Arizona. “It’s always with a wink.”
And that includes planning for the biggest show of her career.
Last week, for instance, Perry prepped with a pedicure.
“Even my tippy toes are ready,” she wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of her toenails done up like 10 little pigskins.
To drive it home, she added a football emoji.
It is this cutesy, feminine charm that makes Perry a welcome, if somewhat unorthodox, pick for midgame entertainment. She is palatable, of course, but despite multiplatinum albums and what she calls her “soft-serve sexiness,” Perry doesn’t have the musical heft or toughness of her immediate predecessors on the Super Bowl stage.
She’s far fluffier than Madonna or Beyonce, both steely and practiced, and is known more for shooting fireworks from her chest than the safe, throwback authenticity flaunted by Bruno Mars, whose performance last year drew a record 115.3 million viewers.
When Beyonce needed a sporty pre-Super Bowl photo op, she went not with nail polish but with eye black.
What Perry does not lack, however, are big songs: Her nine No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2008 include “I Kissed a Girl,” “Teenage Dream,” “Firework” and “Roar,” leaving her no shortage of recognizable choices to fill a 12 1/2-minute appearance Sunday night on NBC.
“The girl’s got so many hits,” said Sharon Dastur, senior vice president for programming at iHeartMedia, the company formerly known as Clear Channel. “No matter how old you are, you know at least one to five Katy Perry hits.”
For the dads grumbling about “real” musicians – the six-year classic rock stretch after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction may have spoiled some people – Perry will be joined by the guitar solo incarnate Lenny Kravitz.
And with the event guaranteed, for better or worse, to play big on social media, Perry is queen: Her 64 million Twitter followers make her account the most popular on the service, ahead of those for Justin Bieber, Barack Obama and Taylor Swift.
(Close watchers of the gossip pages may be holding their breath for a kiss-off from Perry directed at Swift, a rival in song – that would be “Bad Blood” from the megaselling “1989” – and perhaps the most obviously overlooked choice for this year’s halftime show.)
“My intention is that everyone talks about the music and nothing else,” Perry has said, knowing full well that won’t happen. (Side bets include her hair color, outfit choice and whether or not she will actually kiss a girl.)
Fortunately, she is as much a visual pop star as a musical one.
“Katy transports you into another world through incredible sets and costumes,” said Dastur, citing candy-colored music videos and the costume changes on Perry’s current “Prismatic” world tour or in the 3-D concert movie and hit parade “Katy Perry: Part of Me.”
For the Super Bowl, Perry has threatened to coat the stadium in glitter, and her outfits – plural – will come from designer Jeremy Scott, guaranteeing a certain loudness.
“It will be a nice break from the game,” Dastur said.
While far from political, the choice of Perry, whose fans (known as “Katycats”) tend to be young women, also functions as a nod by the NFL to female fans – or fans in the making – during a year plagued by domestic violence incidents.
“It wasn’t an image problem – it was a problem,” Perry said in reference to the scandals involving players. “I’m all about female empowerment and uplifting people’s spirits and people finding their own voice with songs like ‘Roar’ and ‘Firework,’ so maybe there is no better person.”
Perry also represents those who experience the Super Bowl more as an event than as a game. After all, aside from the commercials, the halftime show is the part of the spectacle that even a nonfan can enjoy.
In this role, Perry has already excelled.
“Ahh, Sunday,” she wrote on Twitter in October, as rumors first swirled that she would be performing at the Super Bowl. “Nothing but sitting on the couch, watching my new favorite sport.”