No Safety Here: Bruno Mars Tackles Super Bowl Halftime; Scores Big

Wendy Geller
Maximum Performance

Here's a good one: You take a Hawaii native who's only got two albums and four official years of experience under his belt and throw him into 40-degree weather to perform as the youngest artist ever to headline at the most-watched televised event in America.

It's no wonder some people doubted Bruno Mars would be able to nail Super Bowl XLVIII as the halftime headliner. The NFL has moved from tried-and-true halftime mammoths such as Paul McCartney, the Who, the Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen to slightly more modern artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, and Beyoncé — but what the organization's crown-jewel telecast rightfully expects is a return on investment that matches its behemoth status.

The 28-year-old Mars, who is a two-time Grammy winner (most recently this month for his sophomore album "Unorthodox Jukebox") plus a sales force to be reckoned with (10 million albums and counting), had nothing on paper except a lack of longevity (and, perhaps, unfamiliarity with chilly weather) to suggest he might not be able to hold his own at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium Sunday evening. Still, talk circulated about his route to the Bowl and how he'd landed the chosen slot.

"It’s the biggest stage ever," Mars himself told Forbes.

Happily, Mars proved himself — and then some. The singer opened up the show with an electrifying drum solo, performed on a kit designed to honor his late mother, Bernadette Hernandez (the artwork mirrored a tattoo the singer had inked in honor of his mom). Backed by his eight-piece band, the Hooligans, he shimmied, grooved, did the splits, and delighted fans with a medley of his hits, including "Locked Out of Heaven," “Treasure” and “Runaway Baby.”

Yes, the temperature was chilly, but we would forgive Mars for breaking a sweat with his moves. He didn't.

Things got even more steamy when Mars's special guests, veteran rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers, leaped on stage to join in the fun. During the entirety of their duet of the Peppers' 1991 hit "Give it Away," lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea performed shirtless. Which proved as flawless as Mars's earlier work: The two 51-year-old musicians had more to fear from the East Coast chill than their physiques, which have held up remarkably for their ages.

Super Bowl XLVIII was marked overall by a remarkably classy slate of musical performances, starting off with a flawless "America the Beautiful" delivered by Queen Latifah and continuing with an extraordinary "Star-Spangled Banner" sung by opera star Renée Fleming. The evening's weather, predicted to be in uncomfortable levels for vocal performances, turned out to be relatively moderate (upper 40s), resulting in nary a single hint of lip-syncing...or, really, any controversy at all.