It was unclear at press time whether Mars and the group would be performing songs by Prince or by The Time; or whether Mars would perform one of his own songs separately or as part of a medley; or whether Time frontman Morris Day would be part of the set. Sources stressed that the performance has not yet been confirmed; reps for the Grammys and Mars’ label, Atlantic, declined Billboard‘s request for comment.
While Mars’ name was among those bandied about to lead a Prince tribute at the show, some artists may have gotten cold feet at the prospect of (metaphorically) stepping into Prince’s shoes, especially given the largely unfavorable reaction to Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie at last year’s show. The Grammys’ efforts have also been complicated by the unsettled nature of Prince’s intellectual properties, which have only begun to be clarified in the past few weeks: The estate’s advisers have struck deals with Warner Bros. Records for the bulk of his most popular recordings; Universal for publishing and merchandising; and a streaming deal is expected to be announced on Grammy night (Feb. 12), tied to the show’s Prince tribute.
Since Prince essentially created The Time with Morris Day — writing or co-writing, producing and playing most of the instruments on a large percentage of their catalog, either anonymously or under the pseudonym Jamie Starr — a Time-centric set is a less direct but still appropriate way to pay homage.
And while Mars could probably do a mean Prince tribute, his more boisterous and beefy songs are actually closer in style to that of The Time — “Uptown Funk” isn’t worlds away from “Jungle Love,” The Time’s showpiece in the Purple Rain film.
Billboard will have more on this story as it develops.