Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Release Date: December 6th, 2012
About three years ago, I bought a copy of Travie McCoy’s (who is the frontman of Gym Class Heroes) solo record Lazarus. The record itself was rather mediocre, but the lead single of the song “Billionare” was a very catchy tune and it featured a singer by the name of Bruno Mars, who provided the hook, and as I found out later, helped to write the song itself. It’s a very catchy song, and personally, it was one of my favorites on the record. I had a feeling Bruno Mars would rise to further popularity, and he certainly has. He’s achieved a lot of success and for good reason – the man’s got a killer singing voice and a knack for writing a catchy song. There’s no doubt about it. Regardless, though, I had never really listened to his music aside from tracks like “Grenade,” and “Just the Way You Are.” Those songs are rather cheesy, but compared to the smut that’s on the radio, they are not bad tracks. Mars released his debut record Doo-Wops and Hooligans in 2010 to very positive reviews, including winning many awards, which it certainly deserved. This record, on the other hand, sees Mars writing freely, and he had creative control over the outcome of this record. Because of that, the songs are a bit less cheesy, and still musically diverse. There’s a bit of a variety on this record, specifically pop, R&B, soul, and some rock as well. There isn’t anything terribly unique or ground-breaking here, but it’s a very enjoyable pop record, nonetheless. If you did put this into terms of pop music, it does its job very well. But if you put this record into terms of all music, it’s quite lacking in some places. That’s to be expecting, though; Mars is finally writing on his own, or with the help of a few people, rather than many. To me, personally, he feels like the younger brother of artists like Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, or Prince. He’s got a heck of a lot of talent, but hasn’t rose to that potential yet. For instance, in 2002, a young Justin Timberlake released his first record Justified and it was a rather generic pop record, but showcased how well he can do on his own. In 2006, he released FutureSex / LoveSounds, which really blew people away because of how different it was compared to Justified. I feel the same thing can happen to Bruno Mars – he really wants people to take him seriously, and because he associates with artists like Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, it’s hard for some people to really take him seriously as an artist. This record has him doing most of it himself, with the exception of some producers and other musicians. The bottom line is that Mars has taken the reigns of this record and it’s all his. Like I said, however, this record is a great pop record, but if you were to compare this to every other record that came out this year, it’s quite mediocre. It’s not awful, but not superb, either.
The record starts off with single “Young Girls,” and this is sort of a foreshadowing of where the record will go. It’s a pop song at its finest; there’s not much to it other than that. This song also shows one of my main problems with the record – the lyrics. It’s ironic, how Mars has penned some of the most popular songs this year and last year, like “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green, which is just one of many. That song is quite enjoyable, and I never would’ve expected that he wrote it. The thing is, the songs on here are quite cheesy, to be frank. Well, the lyrics, anyway. They’re either clever and wonderful, or mediocre. This one is a mix of both. The hook is nice, and the song is quite enjoyable, either way. The lyrics aren’t too bad, but nothing I haven’t heard before. Regardless of the lyrics, Mars’ voice is the main star of this record, basically. He can sing, and it’s a fact. The first three songs are like this, “Young Girls,” “Locked Out of Heaven,” and “Gorilla.” These are straightforward pop cuts that really are just catchy and nothing else. Fourth track “Treasure” is another song with cheesy lyrics, but this time, they’re not related to sex, which is what the first three are, essentially. It’s very subtle, which is nice, but still. “Treasure” is just a very cute song about how Mars thinks that a girl is a treasure, essentially. It’s nice. The same goes for fifth track “Moonshine,” that’s another very adorable track, and it seems that’s how most of the record goes; the songs are either adorable or subtly hinting at sex. That trend is broken, though, with “When I Was Your Man.” This is an interesting song because it slows down the album a bit, and it’s about how Mars lost a girl he cared about deeply, and he wish that he would’ve treated her right. It’s great, and it’s one of my favorites on the record. Sadly, this trend of “deep” lyrical subject matter seems to be broken again. That’s the problem with this record; there aren’t many songs with very intellectual subject matters, and maybe I’m just asking for too much, because this is pop music, after all. The only other song with a bit more lyrical depth is the two minute closing track “If I Knew,” which is a nice little piano ballad.
This album is one of those records where I have mixed feelings on it; it’s an enjoyable pop record, but it’s certainly not one of the best records of all time. Bruno Mars can be awesome, and a few tracks on here definitely show it. But that potential is muffled by pop sheen, and I don’t like that. If he worked really hard and honed his craft, he could be a wonderful artist. Maybe if he just associated with the right artists, people would take him a bit more seriously, and I think that’s his main problem right now. Either way, if you enjoy pop music, this is a very entertaining record. If you go into this without expecting too much, you’ll be okay.