There have been countless iconic moments in Super Bowl halftime history. Beyoncé had the earth-shattering power glare. MJ vanished and materialized again. Prince played a silhouetted guitar solo in the rain.
But what will Bruno Mars do?
Can you picture Bruno Mars howling into the night and commanding a crowd of 70,000 screaming fans like Springsteen did? Can you envision Bruno Mars resonating with 90 million viewers like U2 did after 9/11? Can you imagine everyone you know singing along to, um, "Just the Way You Are?" It's very tough.
But rock stars aren't made on paper, or even on the radio.
To be fair, Mars has had quite a good year. He was named Billboard's Artist of the Year and has been nominated for four Grammys. If you look at the stats — which include five No. 1 hits over the last five years — Mars looks like a rock star, and a perfectly worthy choice for one of the world's biggest stages.
He's the blandest of the bland in his fedora and jean jackets.
But rock stars aren't made on paper, or even on the radio, where Mars makes his killing. They're made in the flesh: in jaw-dropping live concerts, in confrontational interviews, in the rumor mill. No matter the genre, rock stars have the presence to own a room once they enter it, to cause hordes of fans to sob hysterically for no apparent reason. The shows they play go beyond the music and turn into spectacles — especially at momentous events like this one.
And while Mars may be a good singer and a decent songwriter, he is painfully devoid of any sort of charisma. He's the blandest of the bland in his fedora and jean jackets. His style isn't so much his own as the leftovers from Jason Mraz's closet. In terms of cultural weight, he pales in comparison to his generational peers — Beyoncé, JT, Miley, even Taylor Swift — to say nothing of the all-time greats that have played Super Bowls past. I can't think of a single person who's seen Bruno Mars in concert, and for good reason: His performances are polite, impeccable and utterly forgettable. His rendition of "Gorilla" during the VMAs this year was excellent, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who remembered it clearly, especially after TwerkGate and Katy Perry's boxing extravaganza.
So maybe this well-produced blandness is fine for the radio, but it doesn't come close to being adequate for the Super Bowl. After all, this is a night when testosterone levels peak, and everything that gloriously represents modern day America — beer, delicious gluttony, marketing, pageantry — is thrust into every living room across the country. Viewers don't really want to see a representation of their own culture; they want to see flashing lights, seismic energy and American greatness through gigantic, ultra-LED plasma screen television sets.
Maybe this is why the NFL recently decided to add the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the show. The Chili Peppers are an all-time great rock band with enormous stage presence. They add elements of sex appeal and unpredictability, and should be positively psyched to play on this stage. But they don't really belong with the man in the middle — it feels a bit more like a Grammy mismatch than a moment of real Girl Talk inspiration. On the biggest stage of America's most spectacular night, we need more.