Super Bowl XLVIII was, by all accounts, an awful game. Unless you were a Seahawks fan, odds are, you weren’t truly engaged in watching the game by the time the fourth quarter started.
The game was a blowout (something that hadn’t happened at a Super Bowl in eleven years, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew out the Oakland Raiders by a final score of 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII, which was played in 2003), the blizzard that was supposed to come and make things semi-interesting never came during the game (as someone who lived in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area at the time of the game, the blizzard came about two hours after the final play), and from the first play, the Seahawks had the lead and the result was never in doubt.
What was the best part about that game? That would be the Super Bowl halftime show.
By Collin Giuliani – Lead NFL Writer – @CollinGiuliani
Bruno Mars had the responsibility of headlining the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, and in his twelve-minute set, he put on a performance rivalling some of the great halftime shows of the past. With one performance, Mars went from merely just another popular face in the pop music world to, quite possibly, the biggest male artist in the world. According to Forbes Magazine, the average ticket price for the Moonshine Jungle Tour (the tour that Mars was on at the time of the halftime show) was $150. On February 3, 2014 (the day after Super Bowl XLVIII), the average ticket price shot up to $500.
Almost every review of the halftime show praised Mars for his performance, which bucked the trend of most in the past. Sure, Beyonce got near-universal acclaim for her halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVII just a year prior, but Madonna got a mixed reception at Super Bowl XLVI, the Black Eyed Peas got panned across the board at Super Bowl XLV, and The Who got a pretty negative reception at Super Bowl XLIV (it would’ve been a great halftime show 25 years ago, but watching Roger Daltrey try and hit those high notes was painful). From the song choices to the minute-long opening on the drums transitioning into “Locked Out of Heaven” to the James Brown-esque dance moves during “Runaway Baby” to the military-inspired ending of “Just The Way You Are” to the near flawless vocals, everything about that halftime show worked.
Nineteen months later, the NFL wants him back.
At the time of this article, nothing has been confirmed. No official announcement has been made by either the NFL, Bruno Mars, or any representatives about this halftime show coming into fruition (however, nothing has been denied). According to Entertainment Weekly, the NFL has asked Bruno Mars to headline and curate the Super Bowl 50 halftime show on February 7, 2016, at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, California. This news was then reported by other major news outlets such as Billboard Magazine and The Huffington Post, among others.
A brief history of the halftime show:
Up until Super Bowl XXVI, the halftime show was atrocious and was merely an extended halftime giving viewers the opportunity to take their time in the bathroom. Halftime shows consisted of marching bands, Disney-inspired performances, drill teams, Up With People (who performed at the halftime show four times, which was about four times too many), and other weird and wacky things from magic tricks to The Rockettes to ice sating shows. After FOX aired counter-programming against the Super Bowl XXVI halftime show (which was an ice skating show saluting the Americans who would compete in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France) and actually took a significant number of viewers away from the game, the NFL decided that the halftime show had to become a serious event. The Super Bowl XXVII halftime show was headlined by Michael Jackson (the biggest name in music at the time, and one of the biggest musicians of all-time), and that halftime show got more ratings than the actual game. Since then, the halftime show has been a big event, and the league has tried to get the biggest names in the industry for more than twenty years.
Since the shift of the halftime show to this big event in 1993, nobody has ever headlined twice. People have performed at the show twice (Justin Timberlake performed as a member of *NSYNC at Super Bowl XXXV before performing as a solo artist at Super Bowl XXXVIII, and Nelly performed for all of one minute at both Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XXXVIII), but nobody has ever headlined it twice. This would be an unprecedented move by the NFL, especially because this would be the second show in three years that Mars would be performing at. If it does happen, what would it look like? Why does the league want him back? How would the halftime show play out?
The first question is this – why would the league want him back, especially so soon?
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Firstly, it has to do a lot with his performance at the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show. The coordinator of the halftime show called booking Mars “the biggest achievement of her life,” as she is apparently a huge fan. The performance got near-acclaim across the board; the only complaint about the show that media outlets had had nothing to do with Bruno Mars, but rather, with the odd and out-of-nowhere appearance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As someone who has been to two Bruno Mars concerts, he’s as good as they get right now. His performances are 90 minutes of non-stop energy, and he captured that in his 12-minute halftime show. He’s got great dance moves, he can sing and hit notes that not many male singers in the pop world can hit, and his backing band (The Hooligans) brings that same level of energy that he does. There’s a reason why tickets for his show jumped more than 200% after he did the halftime show; over 100 million people realized that his live shows are legit. The first show went so well that they want him back.
However, you don’t bring an artist back to the halftime show unless he’s done something else. Prince had an acclaimed halftime show, but he hasn’t been brought back (mainly because he hasn’t had a true hit since the mid-90s). U2 had what many consider to be the greatest halftime show of all time (their tribute to the victims of 9/11 during their performance of “Where The Streets Have No Name” was the most moving moment in any halftime show, and nothing will probably ever rival it), yet, they haven’t been brought back. Most artists aren’t brought back because they get to do the show while they’re in their prime. Once you hit your prime, it’s all downhill. Bruno Mars got to do the show after his second album. While he was popular at the time of the show, his popularity didn’t seem to be peaking at any point, and his career trajectory didn’t seem to slope downward at the time of doing the show like it did for other artists. The evidence behind this comes from “Uptown Funk,” which might be Bruno’s biggest hit to date. It’s sold over 6.5 million copies in the USA alone, the music video is the ninth most viewed video of all-time, it’s the fifth highest selling song in the United Kingdom of all-time, and it spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it tied for the second most weeks at #1 (the record is 16 weeks, held by Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey with “One Sweet Day”). In all likelihood, when the year-end charts come out, it will be the #1 song of 2015 according to Billboard.
The old saying is “strike while the iron is hot”. Right now, it’s hard to find too many artists bigger than Bruno Mars. Ed Sheeran is a good vocalist, but I’m not entirely sure that one man can command an audience of 110 million people with no backing band or flashy production whatsoever. The Weeknd could be a possibility a few years down the road, but he doesn’t have enough songs right now. I doubt that Drake, Eminem or Kanye West or any rappers would ever get the halftime show as their headlining act (simply because it would alienate too many people, and the amount of censorship would have to be through the roof). Of course, the biggest name in the pop world right now is Taylor Swift, but that’s not happening until the Super Bowl’s contract runs out with Pepsi (once that happens, Taylor is a lock to get the halftime show). Because of that restriction and the lack of a field out there right now, even though it seems weird that Mars would do the show twice in three years and even though it seems like this is way too early, it makes sense why the rumor has some merit to it.
If the rumor is true and Bruno is brought in to headline the halftime show, what would his set list look like? I’m assuming he wouldn’t be repeating any songs, because that would be a waste. Of course, “Uptown Funk” would be played at the show, but what else does he have? He’s got some slower songs such as “When I Was Your Man,” “It Will Rain,” and “Grenade” that he did not perform at the last halftime show (but you don’t see artists performing slow songs at the halftime show unless it’s the very last song and it’s a powerful slow song; as great as those three songs are, none of those have the impact that “Just The Way You Are,” “Firework” by Katy Perry or “Halo” by Beyonce do, all three of which were songs that concluded the past three halftime shows), and I’m assuming that the moderate hits “Gorilla” and “Marry You” would be performed, or at the very least, considered. And, he’s got a third studio album set to be released later this year where he could perform a song or two off of.
However, the key word is that he’s being asked to perform and curate the halftime show, meaning that while Bruno Mars would headline the show, it would likely be a collaboration with a bunch of different artists where Mars is only performing his material for half of the show. Who he would collaborate with is a bit of a mystery; he wrote “Forget You” for Cee Lo Green, so maybe he does that song with Cee Lo and gets a marching band involved. Maybe he does a cover of a Motown song with someone. Or, because it’s Super Bowl 50, maybe he does a tribute to previous halftime shows and brings up some artists who did the halftime show before. Whatever the case may be, it’s not just going to be Bruno Mars on stage again. There’s going to be more involved than just that; as great as he was last time, there’s no way that the NFL would willingly allow the same show to happen twice in three years.
On the surface, the decision to allow Mars to possibly perform and headline his second halftime show in three years seems confusing. However, when it’s broken down, the move makes sense. When you take Taylor Swift out of the equation, the field of available pop artists (not counting throwback artists) is very limited. The first performance was so critically acclaimed that it makes sense to bring him back a second time, and it’s not like Bruno Mars is short of material, especially following “Uptown Funk,” which might be the biggest hit of his career even though it came a year after he performed at MetLife Stadium during Super Bowl XLVIII. The halftime show might have a familiar artist this year, but the show itself will be anything but familiar if he does it again. Life on Mars for another halftime show is something that I can definitely get behind.