In Defense of Bruno Mars at the Super Bowl
Over the weekend, it was confirmed that Bruno Mars would be holding the reins for the Super Bowl's halftime show this season. A minute-long clip posted to the pop singer's YouTube account confirmed the decision, featuring footage of Mars from 1990 — when Mars was a four-year-old Elvis impersonator that toured the country and even got a brief role in the film Honeymoon in Vegas — to present.
By all accounts, Mars' appointment as the next halftime performer makes sense. Lots and lots of sense, and not just from a demographics point of view, though it certainly does bode well in that particular arena.
Sure, the guy only has two albums to his credit, both coming in the last three years — 2010′s Doo-Wops & Hooligans and 2012′s Unorthodox Jukebox. He's certainly not the performer that's going to be getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the GRAMMYs or the VMAs anytime soon. Bruno's a household name in pop these days, though not one of its all-consuming divas.
But boy, can the dude put on a straightforward, no-holds-barred performance. That's what the difference will be when Mars and his energetic backing band head to New Jersey next February. An array of singles — four No. 1 hits total — plus a collection of superb, danceable tracks that didn't even hit radio (see: "Runaway Baby") will equal musical nirvana at Super Bowl XLVIII.
Consider these points. Mars burst onto the scene in 2010 with high-profile guest spots on two major summer songs, B.o.B.'s "Nothin' On You" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire," as well as a writer/producer credit on 2010 Song of the Summer, Cee Lo Green's "F**k You." He followed it up with his own "Just the Way You Are," a five-times-platinum, No. 1 jam that established Mars as more than just an artist to watch. Its follow-up, "Grenade," sealed his fate as a pop radio mainstay, the kind of artist whose biggest hits will be played for years to come.
Doo-Wops & Hooligans was a formidable effort that was largely pop and R&B, but with the occasional rock, soul and even reggae slants. Though relying primarily on Top 40 power ballads, the album featured the breezy acoustic pop of "The Lazy Song" and the '60s R&B jam "Runaway Baby," the latter of which solidified Mars' standing as a bona fide showman at the 2012 GRAMMYs. He was nominated for four awards, won zero, and still made a solid showing. (A year earlier, Mars was featured in a group performance alongside B.o.B. and Janelle Monae, took home the GRAMMY for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Just the Way You Are," and nabbed nominations for Record, Song and Producer of the Year.)
"Runaway Baby" was one of the 2012 GRAMMYs' first performances and kicked off the show with an infectious energy. Decked out in suave all gold-and-black everything, Mars showed off some downright sexy dance moves coupled with an impassioned backing band. "So get off your rich asses and let's have some fun!" he proclaimed, before getting his James Brown on with a rollicking, horn-infused dance breakdown that got the crowd on its feet.
Also that month, Mars went overseas for the BRIT Awards, laying down a smooth, lounge-y take on "Just the Way You Are" that reinvented the tune completely, with a particularly satisfying bassline that showed the singer's penchant for taking his own songs and twisting them to serve his every need. And then came Unorthodox Jukebox.
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