After two show-stopping performances, Bruno Mars is taking a break from the Super Bowl Halftime Show—not that he has any regrets. "God bless the Super Bowl," he says in Rolling Stone's Nov. 17 issue, on newsstands Friday. "They hooked me up, they took a chance on me."
Mars headlined Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, performing "Billionaire," "Locked Out of Heaven," "Treasure," "Runaway Baby" and "Just the Way You Are," as well as "Give It Away" with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At the time, the up-and-coming singer says he "had to keep reminding them why they took a chance on me. You put that camera on my band and me, and I got you."
Before he took the stage, Mars got into a disagreement with the show's producers about adding things to his act. "They wanted to show a shot of the audience wearing these light-up bracelets," he recalls. "I told them, 'If you take that camera off me, you're doing yourself a disservice.' And what happened? They spent all this money on these things, and it didn't work."
"I've rehearsed the s--t out of my band, so even if you put cafeteria lighting on us, we're still going to be doing it as if we had $5 million in production. That's the school I was brought up in. It's bar-band s--t," he tells the magazine. "Every smoke machine and laser light is just a bonus."
Two years later, Chris Martin came calling. The Coldplay frontman wanted Mars to join his band at Super Bowl 50, but he initially passed. "I told him I don't think so," Mars says. "I just felt like I'd just done it." Martin asked Mars to meet him in a Malibu studio. "So I drove out there and he pitched it. 'You and Beyoncé, doing 'Uptown Funk'—I want to be responsible for giving that gift to the world,'" Mars recalls. "That's what he said, in his sweet, charming, English way."
Mars was still wary, though. "You've got to be careful with those [multi-artist] performances," he says. "They do it a lot on award shows, where you've got so many cameos but nothing solid."
Once Beyoncé was in, Mars was, too. He was in awe as he watched the "Formation" singer rehearse for the show. "She's not f--king joking around. She's going to get onstage and show everybody why she's the best every single time," Mars explains. "She's got that monster in her."
But Beyoncé is human, too. "Me and Beyoncé were both working on our diets, stressing out. Then the day before, we're watching playback backstage, and she's eating a bag of Cheetos," Mars recalls. "I'm like, 'That's what you're doing?' She's like, 'There's nothing more we can do these last two days. It's gonna be what it's gonna be. So, I'm gonna enjoy this bag of Cheetos.'"
It reminded the "24K Magic" singer not to stress about things he can't control. But make no mistake: he takes his music very seriously. "Sometimes I feel like I'm in the music business 10 years too late," Mars says. "How many platforms do we have? Whose money are we giving to who? It's this weird game. You don't even buy songs anymore—it's just a subscription, it's Netflix. And while we're in the process of figuring it all out, I'm here trying to make albums."