Let’s talk about that Superb Owl halftime show

We (I) here at NY/LAnd Media love both music and sports, but also understand that when the two come together, it can make a not-so-appealing combination. The biggest example of this unrequested pairing is the annual Superb Owl halftime show, this year headlined by Bruno Mars and supplemented by a still half-naked Red Hot Chili Peppers, rocking a nearly fifteen minute set with the best pyrotechnics money can buy and the biggest audience each act will ever get. It was certainly an experience; here are things I noticed:

Bruno Mars is a professional drummer

It was ballsy of Mars to open up his set with a 55 second drum solo, and it worked because he’s good enough to make it work. He’s certainly a professional, and drumming is one of the many talents Mars has in his outstanding repertoire, but let’s be clear: he’s not a great drummer. There are a few thousand professional drummers in this country, and Mars is one of them, but there are only a few dozen great ones. Let’s hold our breath before pronouncing him one of the great ones.

He should have opened with “Treasure”

I would have even preferred it if Mars scrapped “Locked Out of Heaven” altogether. “Heaven” is a pretty bad imitation of The Police, while “Treasure” is a strong Michael Jackson impersonation. I understand it would have been a tough sell (“Heaven” is certainly the bigger of the two songs), but kicking off with “Treasure” would have been as enthralling as Prince beginning his halftime show with “Let’s Go Crazy” (I would never compare Mars to Prince otherwise).

The “Animal House” thing didn’t work

“A little bit softer now, a little bit softer now…” may sound like a good idea in a throwback performance, but all it did was kill the music and pump up a disappointingly whitewashed mosh pit that was probably paid to be there anyway.

But this did:

Yes, more of this, please.

What were the Red Hot Chili Peppers doing there?

Were the Owl organizers that worried that Mars would be rejected by the middle of the country? Were they that desperate for white performers to entertain a white audience? And if they were, what exactly made them think that the Peppers have more fans in Oklahoma than does Mars? The guys with a two-decades long heroin addiction that have made their living repurposing black music? These guys?? I mean, they and their pectorals did a pretty good job, but they didn’t really add anything that the show needed.

Macklemore should have been on instead

I know, I know, hindsight and all that, but with the convergence of Mack’s recent (undeserved) Grammy success and his hometown Hawks in the big game, Macklemore would have been an undisputedly better choice than the Peppers to join Mars on stage. And to balance out the Seattle side, they would have needed a Denver analogue…oh, let’s see…how about…The Lumineers! (Thanks Google)

“Just The Way You Are” was and remains an awful song

It was the clear-cut finale for Mars’s performance. Organizers obviously relied on his excellent showmanship over his body of work in booking the performance, because “Just The Way You Are” is probably the only Bruno Mars song the average American listener can name off the top of his/her head. It’s also the sappiest middle school dance song ever contrived, and I hate that an artist as talented as Mars agreed to lend his fantastic chops to the most vanilla hit ever written. The fireworks were pretty cool, though.

The organizers did well, but still got it wrong

Congratulations organizers, Bruno Mars did an excellent job, and everyone involved with choosing him should get a raise. But let’s take a step back and understand that this year’s Owl took place in New York City. I’m not saying that a show with Billy Joel, James Murphy, Jay Z, Erykah Badu, and the surviving members of the Beastie Boys doing a Lou Reed tribute could have been organized, but I am saying that any one of those acts would have been better and more relevant than a Hawaiian doing his best James Brown impression in America’s greatest musical city.

Bruno Mars put on the best halftime show since Prince

But to be fair, it’s hard to top “Purple Rain” in the rain.

And that doesn’t make him a good artist

In his fifteen minutes of mega-fame, Bruno Mars proved that he’s the best Michael Jackson/James Brown impersonator on the planet, and he made show-stopping entertainment. That may be all that the Owl organizers were looking for, but let’s not confuse showmanship with artistic merit: Mars is not the King of Pop or the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, but a highly-watchable imitation of the two. Mars performed like a record company’s dream: a yes man that can do anything and everything that has been successful before without even a shred of originality. It’s perfectly acceptable to listen to and enjoy Mars’s music, and it’s probably even okay to call him the next Michael Jackson or James Brown. Just understand that as it is right now, no one is going to be the next Bruno Mars.


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