Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox

Posted January 24, 2013 by in



4/ 5


Genre: Pop, R&B
Producer: The Smeezingtons, Mark Ronson, Jeff Bhasker, Emile Haynie,Supa Dups, Diplo, Benny Blanco, Paul Epworth
Label: Atlantic
Format: Digital download, CD
Time: 34:53
Release Date: 6 December 2012
Spin This: Gorilla, Locked Out of Heaven, Natalie, Show Me


Taste of rebellion gives Mars a different shade of grown-folk pizzaz; the pool of producers cuts away at the ebb of predictability; R&B-pop sweetness still in tact


Why must good adventures like this be so short?

Jukebox offers a new look at the life on Mars: naughty, more nostalgic, but still peppy

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Jukebox offers a new look at the life on Mars: naughty, more nostalgic, but still peppy

When Peter Gene Hernandez – known to the world as Bruno Mars – dropped his solo album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, in 2010, he had already racked up a sweet list of impressive vocal credits with Travie McCoy and B.o.B.. And if his new job as hook man didn’t suffice, he had already had his hand in a number of pop hits (Ke$ha’s “Right Round,” Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You!”). It’s still a bit hard to believe that the gent was originally turned down by Motown, but it’s starting to make sense. Today’s Motown is all black and unapologetically urban; Mars’s Doo-Wop & Hooligans leaned a bit pop, played with Michael Jackson semantics and proved to be way too melodic for the streets. Clearly the masses loved the disc, giving Mars three Top Ten hits.

Unorthodox Jukebox, Mars’s sophomore disc, isn’t quite the “orthodox” way to follow up on Doo-Wops & Hooligans. Rather than focusing on the hip and now, he’s digging deeper into the crates of nostalgia. “Locked Out of Heaven” plays with Police-esque riffs before waltzing into a chorus heavy with bass drum and Rihanna-ish synths; “Treasure” is a three-minute time warp into Kool & the Gang pop-funk; “Moonshine” breathes the opulence of dreamy Eighties pop-rock. And then there’s the sexy, aggressive bad-ass “Gorilla,” which bursts out the can with a strip tease dressed with an Art of Noise-Moments in Time” euphoria. He quickly hints on his real-life Vegas drug bust (“Oh, I got a body full of liquor with a cocaine kicker/And I’m feeling like I’m thirty feet tall, so lay it down”) before flaunting his ego and sexual appetite in ways that would make R Kelly jealous (“You got your legs up in the sky with the devil in your eyes/Let me hear you say you want it all/Say it now”). At best, “Gorilla” sounds like “Grenade” for an A-class porno.

All these tricks may be a bit bold for a sophomore disc, but it’s enough to scare away any sophomore jinx jitters. Mars is still a proven master of the instantly-accessible melody, something he proves when entering Elton John ballad mode (“When I Was Your Man”), sunny reggae (“Show Me”) or when stuffing traditional gospel into a “Fuck You!” continuation. It is a bit obvious that the bad boy ooze here is still playful, a disguise that should never be associated with bump and grind madness. But it does a damn good job laughing back at Motown’s face. Inside this ten-track collection, Mars pulls off one of the hippest R&B-meets-pop records of our time, even if his haters haven’t a clue as to what good R&B really sounds like.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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