Share All sharing options for: Beyoncé didn’t just steal the Super Bowl halftime show. She made it a political act.

Coldplay headlined the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, but it was Beyoncé who came to play.

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When the NFL first announced that Coldplay would be playing the halftime show, a couple simple assumptions emerged: 1) They"d have to pay lip service to past Super Bowls (which they did, via a montage of past performers set to "Fix You"), and 2) Beyoncé would be joining, since Coldplay and Beyoncé had only recently released their collaboration song, "Hymn For the Weekend."

It was also kind of expected that Beyoncé might outshine them.

To be fair, Coldplay gave it their eager best. Lead singer Chris Martin started the proceedings on the field, surrounded by fans, and then performed songs like "Viva La Vida" and "Adventure of a Lifetime" with a giant grin on his face and a hyperactive spring in his step. The band"s Technicolor trappings paired with Martin"s enthusiasm made for one of the most earnest halftime performances in recent memory. The whole thing felt as if it was unfolding underneath one of those rainbow kindergarten parachutes.

Then 2014 Super Bowl headliner Bruno Mars slid out to perform songwriter Mark Ronson"s "Uptown Funk" with a slick line of dancers. It looked great; unfortunately, the audio was so mangled that viewers at home could barely hear anything above the screaming crowds. Still, both Martin and Mars seemed to be having a hell of a time.

And then the drum line parted, and there was Beyoncé.

It"s not surprising that Beyoncé slayed; in 2013, she gave one of the best Super Bowl performances in the game"s history. But there was far more behind Beyoncé"s performance of her brand new single "Formation" than her shutting down the dance floor — which she did, even in a dance-off with Mars that included a gracefully swerved stumble.

The day before the Super Bowl, Beyoncé debuted the song by dropping one of her best and boldest videos yet.

As"s Alex Abad-Santos wrote, "Formation" is "riskier, filthier, angrier, and pulpier" than is typical for Beyoncé. It"s also proudly steeped in black American culture, celebrates black femininity, and is overtly political, with Beyoncé sinking a New Orleans cop car as a little boy in a hoodie dances in front of riot cops.

And her Super Bowl performance followed right in the video"s footsteps. Beyoncé emerged, flanked by black women backup dancers with Afros and Black Panther-adjacent uniforms, and clad in a jacket that echoed another iconic black performer: Michael Jackson, circa 1993.

King and Queen. #SB50 #Beyonce #MJ

— Johanna Fuentes (
jfuentes) February 8, 2016

So there was, as there always is, a little more than met the eye during Beyoncé"s performance. And by the time Bruno Mars challenged Bey to a dance-off, she"d stolen the show once and for all. To top it all off, the second the broadcast cut away from all the shiny happy people singing Coldplay"s finale to go to commercial, the first ad was for Beyoncé, announcing a new Formation world tour. She"s since announced a new fund to help the children of Flint, Michigan, during the city"s current water crisis.

Beyoncé performing "Formation" at the Super Bowl is a huge, purposeful statement. Putting black America center stage smack dab in the middle of Coldplay"s set was a significant move right from the start, but it is especially poignant in the context of the song"s defiant social commentary, the constant criticism against black Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for so-called excessive arrogance, and a $1.5 million donation from Tidal — Jay Z"s ever-halting streaming service — to nonprofit social justice organizations like Black Lives Matter on February 5, the day Trayvon Martin would have turned 21.

In short, Beyoncé dominated the show the minute she stepped onto the field, from her knowing smirks during meticulously choreographed dances to the moment when she joined Coldplay and Mars onstage to make sure everyone knew she could smoke them while sharing the screen. More crucially, she transformed one of the biggest events in sports, corporate synergy, and entertainment into a distinctly political act.

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But if you need more succinct proof of just how thoroughly Beyoncé"s attitude and charisma overtook Martin"s earnest bopping, here"s a picture of Martin trying to squeeze between Bey and Mars; she"s crushing the show too hard to even notice:

Beyoncé, Chris Martin and Bruno Mars wrapping up the Super Bowl Halftime show #SB50.

— Music News & Facts (
musicnews_facts) February 8, 2016

Take heart, Chris Martin: You did what you could. But if you"re going to invite Beyoncé onto your stage, you"d better be prepared for her to make it her own.

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