M.I.A. middle finger Madonna's Super Bowl

Madonna's halftime show — which featured hip-hoppers Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. clad in cheerleader attire and pompoms, singing along to the pop star's new single, Give Me All Your Luvin'— was upstaged when M.I.A. (aka Maya Arulpragasam) extended her middle finger to the cameras. A record 111.3 million viewers saw the British rapper's brief obscene gesture during the telecast, the most-watched TV program in U.S. history, according to Nielsen figures.

The Super Bowl is such a mainstream event, "things that at a typical performance would not make anybody bat an eye become the subject of a very intense focus," says Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis.

The rapper — who was one of Google's most-searched subjects Monday — isn't commenting on the incident, but such rude moments aren't out of the norm for the music industry.

A shot of Johnny Cash giving the middle finger to photographer Jim Marshall during a 1969 performance at San Quentin Prison added to the Man in Black's mystique. But when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift as she accepted a trophy during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, his image wasn't helped at all. "That made him look like a twit," DeCurtis says.

Usually in the world of hip-hop, foul language and gestures can be a boon for artists (see: 2 Live Crew).

"She's supposed to be controversial," DeCurtis says. "M.I.A. is certainly not on the scale of Madonna or Nicki Minaj, and it might help (her career) now that people know who she is."

Marks isn't sure whether the Paper Planes performer's errant appendage — a switch from the handgun motion she uses in the video for the new Madonna single — will help or hinder sales for her upcoming new album. (The first single was released Friday. The title? Bad Girls.)

But Chris Willman of Yahoo Music definitely sees it as a plus for M.I.A. "I don't think she's ever gotten this much attention before," he says. "That's the kind of publicity you can't buy when you have an album coming out.
"Who would have guessed that Madonna would be an afterthought in what people are talking about after the show? Madonna might be more mad than any conservative groups."

In the long run, the incident won't be as infamous as Janet Jackson's, when the singer's breast was exposed for about a second while performing with Justin Timberlake during the 2004 Super Bowl. The FCC fined CBS $550,000, but that was fine overturned by a federal appeals court.

M.I.A., known for her rebellious, brash persona and music, performed in a cheerleader outfit for a performance of Madonna's latest single, "Give Me All Your Luvin,'" on which she and Minaj -- also onstage in a pom-pom girl uniform -- are featured rappers.

Her bratty gesture recalled another malfunction of the wardrobe variety in 2004, when Janet Jackson famously flashed a nipple while performing with Justin Timberlake in the halftime show, sending the FCC and viewers into a frenzy.

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