Freddie Matthews writes from London: This new Long Player by Bruno Mars, or Peter Gene Hernandez as his family knows him, isn’t exactly the best value of the year. There are only 10 songs which isn’t much by any artist’s standards. What you do get however are some genius pop songs, as those are what Mr. Mars is best at, writing catchy and memorable pop which is proven by his 40 million plus singles’ sales, compared to just over 6 million albums.
How do you follow such an over achieved debut album, 2010’s Doo-Wop’s & Hooligans? Bruno Mars’ first album was hugely successful. It was anchored by the worldwide smash hit singles, Just The Way You Are and Grenade and was eventually nominated for 7 Grammy Awards. Bruno Mars went on to win one Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for Just The Way You Are, not a shabby achievement for his first album but then again this single alone had over 13 million worldwide sales.
The opening song on this brand new 2nd album is called Young Girls. It is radio and TV single written. Mars himself proclaims that he likes to write feel-good pop songs and this is certainly one of the above. It ticks all the right boxes. What I like most about Unorthodox Jukebox is that Mars hasn’t succumbed to the standard Rihanna style-guide like so many other artists of our time, namely Emeli Sande, Tulisa and pretty much any other ‘urban’ styled artist. Instead he uses influences from the 70s and 80s while trying to lead a whole new generation of music lovers. Take the first single Locked Out Of Heaven: it may well sound like a Police song circa 1980 something but Mars still stamps his brand all over the groove. It’s massively accessible yet comfortably familiar.
There is a theme of gold digging from ex-girlfriends in songs like Natalie and Money Make Her Smile but maybe he’s speaking from experience. I mean Bruno Mars has to be worth into the tens of $ millions. Whoever Natalie was you have to feel sorry for her with Mars singing lyrics like, “She got me for everything”, “Natalie, she ran away with all my money and she did it for fun” and “She’s probably out there thinking it’s funny, telling everyone.” The real Natalie whoever she is won’t be in the slightest bit happy with this song but that’s what’s great about being a singer-songwriter. The truth will eventually out.
Songs I do like: Young Girls – a sure fire future hit; Locked Out Of Heaven – already a worldwide hit which has brought back a long-forgotten style of music to the masses, all thanks to producer Mark Ronson; Treasure – is very Michael Jackson as is his ‘so-called’ self styled trilby, 1970s in production feel and style and very cool and laid back; Moonshine is an R&B masterpiece; When I Was Your Man reminds me of Leo Sayer, if you remember the 1970s singer-songwriter: a piano ballad about not treating his girlfriend right and now she’s gone.
Songs I dislike: Show Me, sounds like Aswad circa 1980. It’s pure dub reggae but that’s a musical style hugely popular in Hawaii so it’s only understandable for Mars to have at least one song on his new album paying tribute to his roots.
Bruno Mars not only writes music for himself but he has also written some of the biggest songs from the last few years including Cee-Lo Green’s Forget You (F.U.) and he also produced Flo-Rida amongst others.
Unorthodox Jukebox is exactly what it says in the title: a different approach to many styles of music all on one album. There is nothing unorthodox about the week 1 sales however. Make that 192,000 Billboard 200 sales with a No.2 position in the USA and 136,000 UK sales for a UK Album Chart No.1. It was also the UK’s fastest selling album by any artist in 2012.
I’m not impressed that this album can only manage a mere 35 minutes and 10 songs. That’s unimpressive by any artist’s standards. Considering the profit margins involved here surely there were a few more songs that could have been added to give at least a little more value for money? That’s embarrassing for Bruno Mars.
Be warned: despite the Bruno Mars core audience being in their teens, Unorthodox Jukebox has a strong Parental Advisory Explicit Content stamped all over it. At least he’s staying true to himself rather than the record-buying public’s sensitivities.