Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars (ap photo)

Do you remember Prince's Super Bowl halftime show?

Expect a similar one this Sunday at the Meadowlands. It won't be quite as good -- but it will be close enough.

That's Bruno Mars in a nutshell.

Back in early 2007, when Peyton Manning was slumming his way to his first (and, as of today, only) Super Bowl title, Prince put on the best halftime show that I've ever seen.

The diminutive virtuoso whirled and bounced around the stage like a performer half his age (he should have left Tom Petty some of his Fountain of Youth juice for Petty's sleepy performance the following year).

It was such a fantastic combination of musicianship, charisma, spectacle, and, most importantly, good songs. He broke out "Baby, I'm A Star" and jammed to covers of Hendrix and Creedence.

And he played "Purple Rain" in a rainstorm -- with a phallic guitar!

Prince, or whatever weird Microsoft Word symbol he was going by at the time, was familiar to people but he didn't feel like an old guy. And as we saw a few years later with the Black Eyed Peas, "new" doesn't necessarily mean "good."

But that's where Bruno Mars comes in. He's old at heart.

Mars has a great voice and solid guitar-playing talent, and, according to a profile in Rolling Stone, has a James Brown-esque work ethic. But part of the reason (I'd say a major part) that teenagers/middle-aged moms like him is because he basically does impressions of artists we all love.


At the VMAs a few years ago, he led the way with an Amy Winehouse tribute, doing a high-energy, retro version of "Valerie." "Treasure"? Sounds like it could have been a B-side off Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. "Locked Out of Heaven"? Pretty much a Police song.

Is it forward-thinking to be heavily influenced by a past that the new generation is too young to remember and the older one wishes it didn't forget? Daft Punk just took home a few Grammys after essentially making a disco album, which everybody loved now that they were removed from their silly anti-disco phase.

Mars took home Best Pop Vocal Album himself, and it doesn't seem ridiculous to suggest that it may be because Unorthodox Jukebox is only half of what its title says it is: it has all the songs we like to play, but they're not so much "unorthodox" as they are "nostalgic."

He might not be your cup of tea, and if he's not, he'll find a way to make himself your cup of tea. Like Prince, he'll do his signature song ("Locked Out of Heaven"). He'll do some covers; the Red Hot Chili Peppers will join him, so there must be a Super Bowl prop bet out there somewhere that Mars will do the upper harmony on "The Other Side" (for what it's worth, I think that would make for an awesome performance).

And if he wants spectacle, he might as well just go for it and do "Gorilla" while humping a massive fake Empire State Building.

Then, it might not be so bad to be known as a Prince rip-off.

Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter and Tout @sweetestpete.