Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops & Hooligans

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Posted October 18, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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On debut, Bruno Mars holds tight to old school doo-wop, soul and reggae and delivers an interesting mix of pop ‘n soul that stands out as one of 2010’s brightest efforts

When he was briefly signed to Motown Records, according to a recent article ran in the New York Times, Peter Gene Hernandez – known now as Bruno Mars – yelled at Motown execs who looked at him hesitantly with doubts of a strong musical career. “Don’t look at me – listen to my damn music,” he implored. “I’m not a mutant.” According to them, there was always a problem about race. Mars, primarily of Pureto Rican and Filipino descent, grew up on the heart and soul of doo-wop and lots of Elvis. His strange mix didn’t earn the favor of Motown, but it did earn him favor elsewhere. Lately, his golden touch in songwriting and production with the Smeezingtons has awarded a number of newborn stars with best-selling gold-certified singles, including B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You,” Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire (in which he also sings on) and the viral juggernaut and #1 UK hit “Forget You” from Cee Lo Green. Now with the world standing at his attention, Mars is out to define himself as an artist with his official debut on Elektra, Doo-Wop & Hooligans. For a young chap his age and with his hand in the mix of today’s pop and hip-hop, Mars instead reverts to the sounds of his past. On the other hand, he revives it using his stellar set of youthful, versatile vocals and a delicious brew of humorous, upbeat and poetic lyricism; resulting in one of the year’s finest, entertaining debuts.

While the first half lights up with energetic pop radio shockwaves, much of the album plays like retro-candy. He dabbles a lot with Jason Mraz reggae, exhibited best on the lighthearted “Lazy Song,” and digs deep into gutsy unrestrained Little Richard rock ‘n roll on “Runaway Baby.” “Marry You,” with its hillbilly Buddy Holly soul, and the Bob Marley-styled “Liquor Store Blues” keeps the interest of carnivorous vinyl audiophiles. But Bruno journeys into some risky, soul-searching belting on “Grenade (I will go all this pain/Take a bullet straight through my brain/Yes I would die for you, baby/But you won’t do the same”), collaborates with Cee Lo Green once again on the adventerous “The Other Side” and designs a pop-fashioned #1 hit with “Just The Way You Are.” When all is said and done, all three songs will definitely give Mars an excellent track record for championing singles.

Mars is a product of a much-younger generation than he’s musically mapped out to be on Doo-Wop & Hooligans. In his wonder years, he was greatly influenced by the music of the Neptunes and Timbaland – two of the right hand forces to help solidify hip-hop’s presence in the pop world. One would expect him to release a debut album using the gusto and sharpness of a hip-hop descendant. Even though he marches with the swagger of a young emcee, he’s not ashamed to be who he really is musically. He’s a superb singer with the 411 on the classics and the smarts of a pop writer. All of this, when personified into one work of art, seems a bit erratic and clumsy on a debut, but Mr. Mars creates an experience that’s – in a lack of better words – out of this world.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: October 4, 2010
  • Label: Elektra
  • Producers:  The Smeezingtons, Claude Kelly, Needlz, Dwayne “Supa Dups” Chin-Quee
  • Track Favs: The Lazy Song, Just The Way You Are, Grenade, Marry You, Talking to the Moon

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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