Bruno Mars broke into the major music scene almost three years ago with his feature on B.oB.’s hit song, “Nothin’ On You.” Since then, he has gone on to pen some of his own hits, which have included the platinum selling hits, “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade.” With his first album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans, Mars has shown that he has a specific niche in the music marketplace and that he is a force to be reckoned with. Now, the time has come, for his sophomore effort, titled, Unorthodox Jukebox, which hit stores earlier this week. His new, hit single, “Locked Out of Heaven,” paying a certain homage to The Police, has climbed to the top of the charts and made any doubters into resonant believers. The future seems even brighter than before, but does Unorthodox Jukebox pack the same punch as its predecessor? Only one way to find out…
The opening track off of Unorthodox Jukebox, “Young Girls,” is an interesting choice to say the least. It is a confessional of sorts, in which Mars battles with who he is. Garnering this critical acclaim as an artist by being in the celebrity limelight has affected him in an adverse way of sorts it seems. Rather than come out with a happy-go-lucky song, Mars delivers a punch right in the stomach. He wants to stay true to himself, but isn’t sure exactly what that means anymore. Pretty thought provoking stuff, whether you can fully relate or not; in the end, we all question our core selves at times, so in some tangential manner this song strikes a nerve.
With a kick drum that doesn’t let up throughout the entirety of the song and a heavy array of synthesizers, “Young Girls” sounds like a faster version of Mars’ earlier hit, “It Will Rain,” minus the grand, operatic hook. This is not one of his type-A songs, but more importantly, it serves that greater purpose in opening Mars up about his own life. Making this the opening track, he is bleeding himself out for the rest of the record. From the second verse alone, this is apparent:
“I get lost under these lights
I get lost in the words I say
Start believing my own lies
Like everything will be okay
Oh, I still dream of a simple life
Boy meets girl makes her his wife
But love don't exist when you live like this
That much I know, yes I know .”
With this now being the reported second single from the album, it is evident that Mars wants to let the world know that his musical styling and topics are not limited.
If this can reach a big audience, who knows, but being Bruno Mars sure as hell doesn’t hurt!!
Continuing down this tunnel of self-discovery, Mars strikes it big with “When I Was Your Man.” This song is great because of its simplicity. Absent of an overly produced track, the elegant sound of the piano is all that is needed, coupled with captivating melody. Gavin Degraw would definitely want this song on one of his albums in another life. Heartbreak and regret is a poignant theme throughout this album, but in this track it is done with such sophistication that it is vicariously felt through the pain in Mars’ voice.
Having only the piano is a gutsy call because the strength of the song rests entirely on the melody. Fortunately, the Smeezingtons (Bruno’s writing crew) get this and do not disappoint. The verses are brutally honest and the chorus is something that cuts through the surface and brands itself on our heartstrings. Love is something that requires our full attention and effort, like anything worthwhile, and fully understanding this is something that comes only after the fact, more times than not. Thankfully, the world has Bruno Mars to help us learn. He writes in the chorus:
“Hmmm too young, too dumb to realize
That I should have bought you flowers and held your hand
Should have gave you all my hours when I had the chance
Take you to every party cause all you wanted to do was dance
Now my baby is dancing, but she’s dancing with another man.”
Other great tracks include, “If I Knew,” “Natalie,” and “Treasure.” Overall, it’s a great effort from Mars, but is it an album that is great throughout? No. His own sound is standing in the backdrop for a lot of these records. Vibes reminiscent of The Police, Phil Collins, and Peter Tosh, make it appear like he is just overtly implanting his influences into his own material. Nothing wrong with this, but people fell in love with him because he was so original in the first album. Hopefully we can see that side of Bruno soon enough again. Until then Druggernauts!!!