In certain circles, circles largely frequented by us critics, pop is a four letter word. But what, exactly, is pop? We don’t really know, but we do know that a lot of people enjoy it, and, by definition, anything a lot of people enjoy has to be empty and shallow. Of course, there’s another, far less jaded way to look at pop music. It’s no easy task to make someone happy, and to make someone happy simply by having a collection of notes enter their ears (and hearts) is an extraordinary accomplishment. So to write …
Fans can also check out Bruno Mars's previous albums: Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox
DJBooth Album Review
So to write off Bruno Mars, who over the last year has meteorically proven himself to be one of the best hit makers alive, as a “mere” pop practitioner would be to astronomically underestimate the man. If the planets align just right almost anyone can stumble into a top ten hit (hi there Mims), but to do it as a writer/singer (Nothin’ On You), do it again (Billionaire) and then yet again as a solo artist (Just the Way You Are) is a string of success that can’t be written off to chance. Bruno Mars has that rare ability to make music that only the most hard-hearted could avoid enjoying, an ability evident throughout his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans.
Relax, that title’s not nearly as weird as it may seem. No one plays a larger part in determining which records become hits than women, so Mars has wisely dedicated much of his album to Doo-Wop influenced romance. But, as hinted by a recent arrest for cocaine possession, Bruno also has a wilder, darker side, and so he’s injected a little Hooliganism into the album on occasion. It’s a concept so perfectly descriptive I have no choice but to rip it off.
I don’t know much about women (just ask my wife), but I do know they love being told they’re perfect Just the Way You Are, and if the person telling them so happens to have a dreamy voice, all the better. It’s no surprise then that Way You Are has been such an enormous hit, but it’s worth noting that more than sugary sweet sentiments are on display; Mars and his Smeezingtons production crew perfectly balance simplicity and complexity on the beat and there’s a warm genuineness to the man’s voice. It would have been easy to simply do 12 different variations of Way You Are, but impressively Mars covers some serious audio ground in his other odes to the female body, mind and soul. Our First Time is the album’s baby maker, a slow burner that brings in r&b and reggae elements to pass my “would I actually play this in the bedroom?” test, and Talking to the Moon is more of a pure ballad guaranteed to tear up the eyes of more than few lonely souls. Ladies, meet your new favorite singer.
On a hooliganism scale of 1-10, with Justin Bieber being a 1 and DMX at a 10, Mars is at about a 5 - he sounds like a troublemaker, but not in any truly threatening sense. Liquor Store Blues is by far the album’s darkest record, and Mars expertly flips the same emotive quality that made Talking such a tearkerker into some truly pained vocals, but it’s still the song of a man who knows trouble, but not desperation. Similarly, while Marry You’s “we’re both drunk, f**k it, let’s get hitched” concept doesn’t scream romance, Mars still manages to give Marry You an uplifting core, and when he promises he’ll only break your heart on the rockin Runaway Baby, he’s also nice enough to issue a warning ahead of time. In other words, take any situation, then think about what Eazy-E would do. Now think about the exact opposite. That’s Bruno Mars.
I know a lot of my fellow reviewers will exhort Mars to deepen his material on his next album, to put some bark into his bite, and I’d agree to an extent, but I’d also urge Bruno Mars not to stop making his uniquely eclectic brand of pop. I haven’t simply enjoyed listening to an album as much as Doo-Wops & Hooligans in quite some time, and making people feel good is not a talent to take lightly. Bruno Mars is one seriously talented artist.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 10/4/10
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Nothing on You" (2009)
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