By Daniel D'Addario
February 2, 2015

She was indeed a firework.

Katy Perry justified the NFL’s trust in her with a dynamic, wild show that traded the technical song-and-dance competence of predecessors like Beyoncé for an emphasis on showmanship. Perry opened her show riding into the stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on a mechanical lion, and closed it by flying above the spectators on a fake platform styled after a shooting star. In between, she danced with pals in shark costumes.

Historically, the halftime show has been an opportunity to prove one’s showmanship; Beyoncé and Madonna, in (respectively) 2013 and 2012, used the most-watched broadcast of the year to run through their catalog hits ambitiously and with aggressive attention to detail. While Perry didn’t miss a step or a note, her act was notable less for its technical prodigiousness than for its sheer humor.

Given Perry’s proclivity for often-tiresome stunts, the idea of a “humorous” Perry halftime act was dubious. But her opening on the back of a giant mechanical animal was legitimately impressive, and her mid-performance switch to a beach milieu, with backup dancers played by beach balls and sharks, was quite cute. The only moment that truly fell flat was Lenny Kravitz’s appearance on guitar backing Perry up on “I Kissed a Girl”; this deep into her career, Perry shouldn’t be relying on the cheap titillation of her first single to get our attention.

Perhaps the best moment of the act were the three songs Perry ceded to guest star Missy Elliott to perform three songs; Perry appeared briefly, in an oversized football jersey, backing up Elliott, then left one of the most iconic rappers of the past 20 years alone to do her thing. Perry’s act, from “Roar” to “Firework,” was moving for the familiarity of the songs in question and as the culmination of Perry’s steady climb to the top of the pop heap. Elliott’s appearance was lovely for its novelty. Both acts deserved 110 million pairs of eyes on them.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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