How does a Hooligan follow a Queen Bey?
That's the task awaiting Bruno Mars as he prepares to play the halftime show at next year's Super Bowl. He'll follow a set from Beyoncé Knowles that is widely regarded as being one of the best in recent years.
Mars, a genial performer and regular arena-touring act with his Hooligans band, might face some bigger challenges in living up to those expectations.
But the selection does signal the Super Bowl's steady return to youthful pop acts as performers. After the infamous Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake kerfuffle, organizers veered toward older rock acts such as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen less likely to suffer wardrobe malfunctions. But recent sets from Beyoncé, Black Eyed Peas and a Madonna pointedly flanked by M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj imply that the Super Bowl's affair with young pop is back on again.
Here's what's in Mars' favor. He neatly splits the difference between young pop fans who dig his modern singles such as "Locked Out of Heaven" and "Grenade," but his aesthetics and live band arrangements hark back to the sweet-tempered era of '50s pop and '60s Motown that older football fans won't be baffled by (see: Black Eyed Peas, 2011). He's a very capable covers artist, as he made the weird task of performing alongside Sting, Rihanna and Ziggy Marley in a Grammys tribute to Bob Marley seem almost sensible.
His challenges? He has only a couple of LPs to his name, and although he definitely can count on a medley of radio hits, he has half the catalog of Beyoncé solo (let alone her Destiny's Child output) to pull from. And although he's definitely a pop star, he hasn't hit that transcendent career level, where even casual six-pack-cracking American football fans would make plans to stick around for the halftime show.
In a lot of ways, Bruo Mars is a best-of-both-worlds selection -- young enough to feel contemporary, but classic-sounding and not alienating to older fans. But it's a tough task to ask him to live up to last year's regal Beyoncé show. Expect a clean, crisp set -- but maybe not a water-cooler conversation on the Monday after.
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