Madonna's half-time performance at the Super Bowl was, by all accounts, a success. But it still generated a controversial moment -- an extended middle finger from British singer M.I.A.
The NFL and NBC wasted little time in apologizing.
"The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans," said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna's halftime show.
The moment came during the biggest TV event of the year. This year's game, in which the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17, is expected to challenge last year's record of being the most-watched U.S. TV event ever.
M.I.A. is best known for her 2007 hit "Paper Planes," a Grammy nominee for record of the year that memorably features a sample of the Clash song, "Straight to Hell." It was featured on the soundtrack to the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."
After the incident, McCarthy said that M.I.A. had not done anything similar during rehearsals and the league had no reason to believe she would pull something like that during the actual show.
Madonna had admittedly been nervous about her performance, hoping to position herself as the queen of a new generation of pop stars with an opulent show and a sharp performance that mixed her new release with more familiar songs. She seemed like Roman royalty when muscle-bound men carried her extravagant throne across the football field to the stage for her opening song, "Vogue."
Guests Cee Lo, Nicki Minaj and dance rockers LMFAO also appeared with Madonna. The singing and dancing on "Vogue" was smartly choreographed, as Madonna moved more deliberately — she is 53 — but still adroitly. She briefly appeared to stumble at one point while trying to make a step on the stage set, but recovered in time.
Madonna carried gold pompons for a performance of her frothy new single. Twitter was alight with questions about the vocals being lip synched or augmented by tapes, particularly during this song.
The best guest was clearly Cee Lo, who joined Madonna for the final song, "Like a Prayer." They were joined by a robed chorus in the show's most soaring performance. With a puff of white smoke, Madonna disappeared down a trapdoor in the stage, and lights on the field spelled out "World Peace."
Earlier, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert offered some pregame patriotism. Shelton and Lambert did a twangy duet on "America the Beautiful" and Clarkson, in a simple black dress, sang "The Star Spangled Banner" without a hitch after last year's performer, Christina Aguilera, flubbed a line.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.