Release Date: Dec 11, 2012
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Pop/Rock
Bruno Mars doesn't do low stakes. He is a drama king, a man who thrives on grand statements, soap-opera plotlines and actual-opera melodrama. On his second album, Mars sings endlessly about sex – wild, wind-swept, Wagnerian sex. The smuttiest song here, "Gorilla," has a backbeat that would make Mutt Lange quake in his boots and a lyric that R.
Does Bruno Mars really love you just the way you are? That’s what he promised on 2010’s smash Doo-Wops + Hooligans, a glorious slab of fedora-wearing, marriage-proposing, catch-a-grenade-for-ya chivalry. But outside the studio his image wasn’t so gentlemanly: When he got busted for cocaine possession that same year, he told GQ, ”I’m not gonna preach that I’m a role model. I’m a f—ing musician!” That mantra defines his excellent Unorthodox Jukebox, which feels much truer to life for a 27-year-old millionaire who vacations in Vegas.
Bruno Mars makes people a little crazy, on both sides of the issue. His fans have tended to gush about his old-school skills: the extravagantly hooky choruses, the impossibly angelic voice, the big, wide-open heart and puppy-dog devotion displayed on other people’s songs and his own hits from Doo-Wops and Hooligans. His detractors have been even more apoplectic about him, accusing him of calculating his adorability, looking backwards instead of forward, and a million other sins that boil down to Bruno Mars being ...
Bruno Mars is instantly puppy-dog lovable, and that’s probably his biggest weakness as an R&B hit-making phenom. Everything about this dude is slick and easily digestible: He’s young, sweet-natured, and handsome; his grooves are produced to an immaculate sheen, and his silky croon has a way of drifting through you without rattling your bones or stirring any emotion. At the family reunion of modern R&B, Cee-Lo Green is your wacky uncle doing magic tricks, Usher is your mysterious playboy cousin creeping in the basement, and Mars is your squeaky-clean neighbor who dropped by just in case you needed any help washing dishes.
But not too unorthodox, obviously. Bruno Mars didn't become the whoppingly successful songwriter and producer he is by veering too far off the pop/R&B/hip-hop course, so his second album is the same conventional mish-mash as his 6m-selling debut. There's no doubt, though, that he can write a pleasant tune, and sing it with sweet sincerity. Genre-hopping pop albums are a bit of a thing at the moment – witness similar releases by JLS and Kimbra – but Mars is an exceptionally nimble hopper.
Few things are more humiliating for a music critic than giving a good review to someone like Bruno Mars. Still, it's hard to deny the guy's amazing ability to write a hook. If he weren't trying so hard to prove something on this follow-up to the wildly successful Doo-Wops & Hooligans, we might even have given it 4Ns, but his desperation to be taken seriously saves us from that shame.
For all of Bruno Mars’s attempts to brand Unorthodox Jukebox as sonically progressive, there isn’t anything remotely unorthodox about his new album. A hodgepodge of musical styles, it offers the impression not of an artist heroically blurring boundaries, but of a well-schooled pop star using his gift for variety-show mimicry to conquer as many demographics as possible. When the synthy ‘80s flourishes start blurring together with the approximations of R&B and reggae, it’s a result of the unifying narrowness of Mars’s sound, which revolves around a ruthless, hook-driven eagerness to please, and his worldview, which vacillates between old-school notions of courtship (“I should’ve bought you flowers and held your hand”) and “Dirty Diana”-inspired misogyny (“I’m digging a ditch/For this gold-digging bitch”).
Most simians learn by copying, and humans are no exception. You could make an anthropological case arguing that singers are the foremost perpetuators of monkey hear, monkey do. We all know that Stars in Their Eyes never really left British TV screens, it just came back as The X Factor, an orthodox jukebox of moves to cop. Bruno Mars, author of 2010's hugely successful Doo-Wops & Hooligans, has often been criticised for aping his heroes.
Bruno Mars’ debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans made the talented singer/writer/producer into a star, he racked up hit singles, hosted Saturday Night Live, and became something of a romantic icon thanks to loverman anthems like “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade. ” On the way to writing and recording his second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, something seems to have gone sour for Mars. Where on his debut he sang about falling on a grenade for his girl, on this record he’s more likely to throw her on top of a grenade.
Sounds like Bruno Mars is trying to rough up his image a bit on his strong, if sometimes oddly lyrically aggressive, second album. The affable, unabashed romantic crooner of “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are” remains in tunes like the gorgeous, regret-filled piano ballad “When I Was Your Man” and the retro-soul closer “If I Knew. ” The lover of low-rent reggae jams returns in the breezy “Show Me.
Shot through with the confidence of a man with the hit parade Midas touch. Matthew Horton 2012 Pretty much the biggest pop star in the world right now whose name isn't Adele, Bruno Mars is ubiquitous and prolific with it. Both with and without his songwriting/production crew The Smeezingtons, Mars has had a hand in hits by Cee Lo Green, Sugababes, Justin Bieber, Adam Lambert and Alicia Keys, and has scored a clutch of UK and US number ones under his own steam – all in just a couple of years on the scene.