For many, the Super Bowl halftime show is a respite on the biggest night in American sports, a chance to use the bathroom. For others, its the biggest moment of the night. So let's take a few seconds on this particular sports site to talk about who Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are, and why they're performing at the Big Game.
To be honest, I was really surprised when Bruno Mars was named to perform at this year's halftime show. This is probably the most watched entertainment moment in any given calendar year, and in past years, the slot has gone to super-mega-superstars: Last year was Beyonce, generally acknowledged to be the greatest human of our time. The year before that was Madonna, who can consistently sell out multi-continent tours after dominating the 1980's. In the years before that we saw revolutionary artists like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Who, and others who fall into the "generation-defining" category.
Bruno Mars doesn't quite do that. He simply hasn't been around long enough yet. The 28-year-old tiny Hawaiian man-- birth name, Peter Gene Hernandez -- hit pop charts for the first time just four years ago, in 2010. His signature is his incredibly expressive high-pitched voice. His voice is captivating and his hooks are constantly catchy. But he's the Super Bowl halftime guy least guaranteed to be a success than anybody in the past decade or so.
I have no complaints about Bruno Mars as a singer. You could send scientists into a lab for years trying to get them to craft a voice that will more perfectly entertain moms, and they will not be able to do it. His songs span a range of emotions from "plaintive/romantic" to "let's do sex," and he is great in every tint of the spectrum.
Mars got where he is because of his songwriting talent. In an era where most musicians get by singing whatever some combination of managers and marketing people hand to them, Mars' first two mainstream appearances were singing the hook on songs he wrote for other artists: Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" and K'naan's "Waving Flag" were written by Mars before he was known as a singer. Eventually, someone realized he had a nice voice, and he was allowed to take the hook on B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire," songs which became popular less due to the meh-worthy rapping of those guys and more due to the evocative crooning of Mars.
Established as a person whose voice is nice and stuff, Mars' solo stuff popped. His first album, 2010's "Doo-Wops and Hooligans," featured No. 1 hits in "Just The Way You Are" and "Grenade," and other hits like "The Lazy Song" and "Marry You." He was now A Star. This past year, he released his second album, "Unorthodox Jukebox," with No. 1 hits in "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "When I Was Your Man."
My main problem with Bruno Mars is that his musical style is really just other people's musical styles. Here is Bruno Mars' "Treasure," which he'll certainly play tonight:
Here is "Baby I'm Yours" by French producer Breakbot, which you might notice is exactly the same song:
Breakbot will not perform at the Super Bowl tonight, and won't make money, because Bruno Mars isn't paying him any, even though he essentially wrote one of Mars' biggest hits.
This is "Locked Out of Heaven:"
This song isn't literally ripped from anybody, but Mars himself has said it's an attempt at sounding like The Police.
Mars will play music that you won't hate at the Super Bowl, because the Bruno Mars plan is just singing every genre of music, except now Bruno Mars is singing it, and his voice is perfect. He'll excitedly bop around the stage and you will love him, even guys, because there's nothing unlikeable about him. He is a tiny musical chameleon that sounds like an angel, and he's made disagreeing with him impossible.
The other name in the Super Bowl halftime show is the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band with about three decades more catalog than Mars. It's not clear if they're there to be the Red Hot Chili Peppers or if they're there to simply provide a backing band for Mars.
The latter would make sense, because in the same way Mars plays 30 different types of music, RHCP has changed what they do about 30 times over the 30 years they've been in business.
I have a confession to make: when I was a teenager, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were my favorite band. I wore out "Bloodsugarsexmagik," their 1991 album featuring "Under the Bridge," "Give It Away." and some songs about having sex, which I thought were really cool before I had ever had sex. I had never actively realized that I no longer liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers until this past week, when I saw this parody of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song on Twitter.
I've listened to hours and days and months of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it took me about three listens to that parody to realize it was not the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It has all the things Red Hot Chili Peppers songs have:
-- random mentions to California
-- lead singer Anthony Kiedis sounding exactly like the person in that parody
-- gain-y bass, spacy guitars
-- yelling stuff that rhymes but somehow shouldn't be classified as rap
-- bong ba bong ba bong ba dong bingy bong
The things that eventually made me realize it was not a real Red Hot Chili Peppers song were a) the drum machine and b) the fact that they already rhymed "jammed my butt with a big stick" and "sucking my dick" on "Sir Psycho Sexy," a song of Bloodsugarsexmagik, and that they surely would not do it again 23 years later.
In the 1980's, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were loud guitars with Kiedis yell-rapping. Then, their first guitarist, Hillel Slovak, died. With his replacement, John Frusciante, they found a musical style, tinging rock with funk for their base set and pumping out some brilliant ballads on the side.
If you have complaints about 1990's Red Hot Chili Peppers, we don't see eye to eye. Flea is one of the best bassists of all time. Frusciante is an incredibly talented guitarist. And, well, their music was funky and fun.
But the type of music parodied in that thing up there is problematic. It's this easily recreatable soft dad rock. I don't blame RHCP for making it, because while they were rebellious rockers when they made their best work, they are now soft dads. They have been making music since before I was born, and I am now a person with a job. Frusciante is no longer their guitarist, replaced by some guy named Josh Klinghoffer.
At the Super Bowl, they will probably pretend to be the former. They are there to be pretend-rebellious at the biggest TV event of the year. They have a reputation for taking their shirts off and putting their dicks in socks. But because this is the Super Bowl and there are millions to be made, they will not do that, most likely.
They will probably just, bang their heads aggressively, and play Bruno Mars' songs. If we're lucky, they will play them slightly differently, in a manner that makes it clear they are the Red Hot Chili Peppers and not just some guys. Perhaps there will even be a guitar solo.
But regardless, it will make me sad. Because I'm just now realizing that my favorite band from when I was 13 is very, very different from what they were than when they were my favorite band.