Bruno Mars: 24K Magic

Posted November 29, 2016 by in Funk



2.5/ 5


Genre: , ,
Producer: , ,
Genre: Funk, soul, R&B
Producer: Jeff Bhasker, Emile Haynie, Shampoo Press & Curl, The Stereotypes
Label: Atlantic
Format: Digital download, compact disc, streaming
Time: 33:28
Release Date: 18 November 2016
Spin This: "24K Magic," "Chunky"


The sounds of bad-ass R&B and funk are a throwback pass to yesteryear. it's really the best element offered


Playful R. Kelly-inspired lyrics are way too juvenile for Mars's asthetic; album way too short, lacks the big hits

Uptown Funk’s playful cousin, Bruno Mars’s third album, has one definite problem: Growing up

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Uptown Funk’s playful cousin, Bruno Mars’s third album, has one definite problem: Growing up

brunomars-02It’s been one rollercoaster ride for Bruno Mars. After breaking several artists with his golden songwriting and perfect hook-ready vocals, Bruno Mars stepped out as a solo act with 2010’s Doo-Wops & Hooligans, a record so mesmerized with radio hits that it almost bore a similar legend to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Amazingly enough this was all coming from a debut solo album. Fast forward through  the inescapable Unorthodox Jukebox, a stunning victory lap yielded by Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk”) and headlining a Super Bowl halftime show (and returning with Coldplay and Beyoncé to reprise the gigantic “Uptown Funk”), the 31-year old lad is out to prove he’s a man of many hats.

On his third LP 24K Magic, he’s wearing “Cuban links, designer minks/Inglewood’s finest shoes,” dressing up in full-blown West Coast black radio attire. It’s a wild contrast to the quasi-bubblegum pop adorning such hits like “Just the Way You Are,” “Marry You,” “Grenade,” and so this isn’t a record that will satisfy his former base. What it’s intended to do is build on the success of “Uptown Funk,” stretching his passion for crossover funk and dancey R&B across a semi-full album.

With only nine tracks in cue, 24K Magic is already a disappointing let-down. Regardless of what’s packaged inside, it’s not going to be enough to feel complete. But Mars supplies ears with Roger & Zapp-esque synths and talk box effects, evidenced on its opening, the title track. And the party lingers on with “Chunky,” a sweet midtempo ode to thick babes stuffed with ’80’s crossover R&B. He makes a leap inside James Brown funk (“Perm”), piggybacking off of Ronson’s “Feel Right,” and crisscrosses into Bobby Brown’s New Jack Swing (“Finesse”). The album reaches a climax with the thick urban beats of “That’s What I Like,” another midtempo groove but one destined to get attention for carefully blending Mint Condition soul into T-Pain swag.

But Mars wrestles with too many easy-to-assemble tracks. The B-sides are a little evident: “Versace on the Floor” sways like Gregory Abbott pop dressed in Lonely Island/Justin Timberlake playful lyrics; “Straight Up & Down” flickers with more G-rated sex jams inside a forgettable musical template of ’90’s contemporary soul; the new school Isley Brothers-sounding “Calling All My Lovelies” would be alright if the lyrics were a little more mature acting (“I got Alisha waiting, Ayesha waiting, all the ‘eshas waiting on me”). After awhile, it all starts to sound like a in-studio joke.

And with everyone literally fixated by the throwback spunk of “24K Magic,” it’s not hard to detect Mars isn’t being the best steward in lyricism inside this land of funk. It’s a formula that’s replicated across the entire record, to the point that when he finally tries to get serious on the Philly soul-constructed closer “Too Good to Say Goodbye,” it’s too late to paint a more serious and different picture.

Mars is better than this. It’s not like he doesn’t know how to construct a fine album. And no, 24K Magic isn’t a blunder. It’s ripe with really good sample-free sounds but it’s stumbles are actually very serious, especially coming from such a pop songwriter pro. The corny lyricism may be fun for a college night party, but all of this feels like he’s entering into the sugary raunch factory of R. Kelly, exhorting more of the fat cal machismo male soul that has the R&B scene in a suffocating choke hold. Sound wise, this is a creative step up for Mars. Lyrically, it’s one step back.




About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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