Friday 26 December 2014

Mars drops the pop and goes a bit unorthodox

Published 14/12/2012 | 18:00

big release of the week

Bruno Mars

Unorthodox Jukebox

(Warner Bros)

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Bruno Mars has become Hawaii's biggest export since Barack Obama, thanks to his huge-selling 2010 album Doo Wops and Hooligans. That the album boasted some of the naffest lyrics on some of the cheesiest songs committed to tape in recent years didn't seem to bother the masses, who lapped up his radio-friendly fare.

Doo Wops' pursuit of polish rather than inventiveness was disappointing, considering that among Mars' many co-writing efforts was the super-catchy Cee Lo Green song F*** You!

Clearly, the guy has talent in spades – it just wasn't evident on his solo album.

Fast forward more than two years and the bold Bruno is finally coming good on that early promise. Unorthodox Jukebox is by no means a late contender for those albums of the year polls, but it is an impressive album that will be lapped up by existing fans and is likely to convert some of the doubters.

Although a huge variety of styles are on show – hip-hop flavoured ballads, old school soul, reggae-tinged pop – there's a far greater sense now that Mars has found his own voice, rather than trying to ape others.

Furthermore, his sickly sweet persona seems to have been kicked into touch, and several of the new songs display the sort of brio and appealing self-confidence that made Justin Timberlake's debut album such a big success back in the day.

It would be easy to imagine Trousersnake singing about "young wild girls" as Mars does on the uber-catchy opener or on the undeniable pop smarts of Gorilla, which boasts a line about "a body full of liquor with a cocaine kicker" before describing Bruno's desire for carnal action to rival that of the simian species named in the title.

Several of these songs are likely to be everywhere in 2013, including the Police-lite Locked Out of Heaven and Moonshine – an homage, it would appear, to one of Mars' heroes, Michael Jackson.

Throw in an inspired collaboration with Diplo on the beats-heavy Money Make Her Smile, and the singer's transformation from goody two shoes to bad boy is complete.

Unorthodox Jukebox could have been even better if Mars had taken more risks, because half-a-dozen tracks are indistinguishable from the sort of over-produced pap that clogs up daytime radio.

But for now, let's acknowledge the good stuff. You'll soon be very familiar with it.

KEY TRACKS Moonshine; Gorilla

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