POSTED: 11:35 a.m. HST, Jan 31, 2014
When Bruno Mars takes the stage at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., this chilly Sunday to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, in front of the biggest audience he's ever played to, he can take some solace that his set only needs to be about 12 minutes long.
But those few minutes will be the most crucial and thoroughly scrutinized in this young pop musician's booming career, in a show that has been second-guessed for months.
Mars, 28, the best-selling singer-songwriter of hits like "Locked Out of Heaven," "Gorilla" and "Grenade" and, as of last Sunday, a Grammy Award winner for "Unorthodox Jukebox," which won best pop vocal album, was an unexpected choice when the National Football League announced him in September as the halftime performer.
Compared with previous artists who have played to national television audiences of 100 million or more on the coveted Super Bowl stage, a roster that has included Beyonce, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, Mars seemed to lack the stature and longevity of these monolithic musicians.
For the NFL, the selection of Mars is a potentially risky experiment for the halftime show, as the league forgos a heavily mined supply of time-tested musicians in favor of a younger and relatively hipper headlining act. But the biggest risk of all is to Mars himself, who, in the span of a few songs, can either prove that he is a rising talent worthy of this distinction or that his detractors were right to be skeptical.
"He needs to really come across strongly and obviously not fall flat on his face, or it could kill his career," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a publication that tracks the concert tour industry. "I'm sure he's concerned about doing the very best show that he possibly can."
Mars said at a news conference Thursday at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center that he is not concerned about the pressures of the halftime show.
"No matter where I perform, it's my job to uplift the people," Mars said. "So whether I'm performing at a graduation party, a wedding, a bar mitzvah, the Grammys, the Super Bowl, I'm going to give it all I got. Whatever happens happens. I ain't scared, if that's what you think."