The music world's reigning queen, Beyoncé, will ascend to the throne and the stage at Super Bowl 47 on Sunday. She might get some assists from her subjects, too.
Beyoncé is the halftime show performer for Super Bowl 47, and is the Super Bowl 47 halftime show, if we're being honest, and she's dynamic enough as a performer and has more than enough great songs to put on a good show in New Orleans. But the conflict between great songs and hits either makes predicting Beyoncé's Super Bowl setlist a little easier or a lot harder.
For all her many accomplishments in music, Beyoncé -- who has only briefly been Beyoncé Knowles, given how one-name-worthy her career has always seemed -- does not have that many unquestionable hits. Of her five songs that have hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, only "Irreplaceable" and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" were without guests: Jay-Z lent a hand on "Crazy in Love" at the beginning of the singer's relationship with the rapper in 2003, Sean Paul guested on "Baby Boy," and Slim Thug helped out on "Check On It."
You can add four more Hot 100 No. 1s from her time with Destiny's Child ("Bills, Bills, Bills," "Say My Name," "Independent Women Part 1," and "Bootylicious"), but, of them, only "Say My Name" seems likely to be a contender for a Super Bowl slot, given that Destiny's Child has a new album coming out and a new single, "Nuclear," from it. If Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams show up to help Beyoncé, it will be for some of "Nuclear" and maybe a snippet of "Say My Name" or "Lose My Breath," I'll bet. This is unfortunate, because "Nuclear" is not on par with the rest of the songs mentioned here, but Madonna's performance in 2012 at Super Bowl 46 is probably instructive for understanding Beyoncé's.
Madonna, the first female performer to be given the halftime slot since Diana Ross got it in 1996, began with "Vogue," then segued into a medley of her music and the ubiquitous "Party Rock Anthem" and "Sexy And I Know It" with LMFAO. She performed new single "Give Me All Your Luvin" with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. (and M.I.A.'s middle finger to the world became the breakout moment of that show), then "Open Your Heart" and "Express Yourself" with Cee-Lo, and closed with "Like A Prayer." That's four "oldies," four songs with guests, two of her own songs from the 21st century, and one new single.
Beyoncé's career has happened almost entirely within the 21st century, so that's going to throw a wrench into the set list. But she can still follow the formula: "Bootylicious" or "Say My Name" would be the oldest oldie, and those songs and "Crazy in Love" would also qualify as songs with guests, "Nuclear" would work as the new single, and the kaleidoscopic "Countdown" or the very sweet "Love On Top," which she memorably used to announce her pregnancy at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, could be the "Music" analogues.
Regardless of adherence to past patterns, "Countdown" would seem to be a lock to be played, given how it has figured in Pepsi's Super Bowl campaign, and Beyoncé's 2011 4, her most recent album, also has "Run the World (Girls)" and "Love On Top." Both feel arena- and world-sized enough for the Super Bowl, and are uptempo tracks that won't bore viewers like "Irreplaceable" or "Halo" might.
If Beyoncé wants to shock the world like Madonna did with LMFAO's appearance, she could perform with hubby Jay's "Suit & Tie" collaborator and Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" accomplice, Justin Timberlake, doing their duet on "Until the End of Time," get New Orleans native Lil Wayne to the stage in the Superdome for some of "Soldier," one of the best Destiny's Child tracks, or put OutKast's Andre 3000 on the stage for the fantastic "Party." These songs seem unlikely to be played, but No. 1s "Baby Boy" and "Check On It" are even longer shots.
Instead, you can probably count on "Countdown," "Crazy in Love" (Jay performed at a DirecTV Super Bowl party in New Orleans late Saturday night, so he's definitely in town, and I can't imagine Bey not using her Super Bowl stage to help Jay out), some older Destiny's Child track, and "Nuclear" as the framework of the setlist, with a few other songs — I'd favor "Love On Top," "Party," and the Jay-assisted "03 Bonnie and Clyde," but "Single Ladies" is probably too massive to not be used — sprinkled in to fill out a set that will probably last between 15 and 20 minutes.
One thing we can probably expect for certain is another lip-syncing controversy like the one over Beyoncé's performance of the national anthem at President Barack Obama's second inauguration, even though the use of a pre-recorded track is a common occurrence -- what viewers heard of Whitney Houston's famous Super Bowl anthem.was pre-recorded -- and Bey performed the anthem flawlessly live at a Super Bowl press conference this past week. There's less reason to use pre-recorded tracks in the Superdome, where it won't be as brutally cold as it gets in Washington, D.C. in January, but Beyoncé's perfectionism is one of her hallmarks, and having perfect-sounding studio tracks backing her up is likely.
Also likely: Beyoncé tearing the house down. Her live shows have been fantastic in recent years, and she can belt in a way that most Super Bowl performers of recent vintage -- Beyoncé is the first non-guest halftime show performer under 35 since that Janet Jackson show in 2004, which also featured Timberlake, P. Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock -- simply can't. If she's anything less than good, it'll be an extraordinarily bad night, and if she's phenomenal, it won't be unexpected.
Beyoncé was born and raised for moments like the Super Bowl halftime show, and stages like the Super Bowl halftime show seem tailored to performers like Beyoncé. The fit should be perfect on Sunday night in New Orleans.