M.I.A. Flips the Bird as Madonna Tries to Keep Super Bowl Halftime Show Clean (Update)

M.I.A.’s guest appearance prompts an NBC apology

Last Updated: February 5, 2012 @ 9:15 PM

(Updates with NBC's apology for M.I.A.'s middle finger)

There was exactly one provocative moment during Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show — and it didn't come courtesy of Madonna.

Instead, it was from British rapper M.I.A., whose middle finger during a guest appearance prompted an apology from NBC. The musical provocateur flipped the bird before the network could catch it, the network said.

Also read: NBC Apologizes for M.I.A. Giving the Finger

M.I.A., like the early Madonna, seems fond of controversy. She has defended the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka, where she grew up, though others have denounced them as terrorists. Her 2010 video for the single "Born Free" tried to raise awareness of genocide by imagining a world where redheads are captured and killed.

The only people Madonna was likely to offend Sunday were those who heard her wrong. At one point during "Music," her second song, it sounded like might have said the word "cock." (At least, it sounded that way to those of us who used to think "Scuze me while I kiss this guy" was a line in "Purple Haze.")

A fast rewind confirmed she didn't say the word — or any others that might get anyone angry. She stuck to the lyrics of "Music," including the line: "Don't think of yesterday and I don't look at the clock."

Also read: Madonna Promises No Wardrobe Malfunction

Yes, clock. She delivered the "ock" part of the word with her typically crisp elocuction.

And that was as close as she got to doing anything nefarious during the halftime show. Her cartwheels briefly revealed the elaborate undergarment under her black skirt, but it was no more revealing than the cheerleading routines she was tweaking. Her tight top left zero risk of a Janet Jackson-like wardrobe malfunction — and she promised last week that there wouldn't be one.

The show would have gone according to her ambitious plans, without violating the delicate sensibilities of anyone at home. If not for M.I.A.'s gesture.

Madonna was led to the stage by musclebound men dressed like Trojans, wore a Nordic-looking headdress, and also shared the stage with LMFAO, Nicki Minaj (pictured) and, in a nice promotional tie-in for NBC, Cee Lo Green. He's one of the judges on "The Voice," the season 2 premiere of which got the catseat slot right after the game.

Twitter responses were fiercely split, but it's hard to imagine what she could have done differently to win over the non-fans. If you like Madonna, chances are you liked her wild, genre-twisting performance. If you don't, you probably didn't.

There was no arguing with her song selection, including her new "Give Me All Your Luvin" and "Like a Prayer," which featured the obligatory marching band and choir.