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No such thing as a sophomore slump; this impressive album topples what he gave us before!
on January 21, 2013
I was really hard on Bruno Mars when he released his debut album `Doo-Wops & Hooligans'. Ok, I wasn't harsh as much as realistic. It was catchy yet lazy and really showed a lack of depth in a rising star I wanted to see a more complete thought from. It was redundant and uninspired and too nonchalant for its own good. I still gave it a C, and I still love a few of the tracks on the album (who can deny `Just the Way You Are', and obviously `Marry Me' is still catchy and lovely as all get out) but there is no hiding my disappointment with the effort overall.
`Unorthodox Jukebox' is a different animal.
This is NOT a perfect album, and yet I really think that this better identifies who Bruno Mars is and presents a more complete approach to his breed of nostalgic pseudo-pop. Some claim that Mars genre hops all over this album and yet I don't see that. Mars is very focused on the type of music he is producing here, and it shows in a very consistent and overall very impactful album. From the first single sampling The Police, Bruno Mars salivates all over 80's rock-pop in a way that feels fresh, funky and completely reflective. Mars still suffers from some lazy lyric development, but his silky smooth vocals and his direct approach make this a very enjoyable album from start to finish.
Outside of the ill-advised `Show Me' (why to all `island' songs carry the same repetitive and uninspired musicality?), this album showcases nostalgic pop done with a modern twist very well. `Locked Out Of Heaven' is so juicy and delicious to the ears, and `Treasure' explores the highlights of Motown with pitch perfect charisma. `Natalie' pulls darker strings until that chorus line bursts in and just explodes all over the place. `Moonshine' feels very `Phil Collins' to me, which is something I really like. `Money Make Her Smile' and `Young Girls' seem a little uninspired lyrically, but the musical prowess of the tracks make them pop in all the right places. `Young Girls' sooths on the eardrums and `Money Make Her Smile' uses vocal distortion in the right way. `Gorilla' is exactly how you do an edgy love song (or `make love' song), complete with rock ballad influence igniting the chorus, and the closing track, `If I Knew' is fluid and just plain beautiful to listen to (his voice is perfectly suited for ballads). The throwback vibe here (I mean, Frankie Valli would have drooled all over this song) is such a classic way to end this album. It is far better than `When I Was Your Man', which feels somewhat generic in tone despite having some beautiful vocals.
So, this is a major step up from his debut. I don't like `Show Me' at all, but that is really the only sour note (even `When I Was Your Man' is a good song despite being unoriginal). The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to give Bruno Mars top honors for this collection of inspired and impressive tracks.