Bruno Mars: Unorthodox Jukebox (Review)

“Best Pop Album In Years”

I’m the first to admit, I was not the biggest fan of Bruno Mars’ debut album “Doo-Whops & Hooligans”, I hated the thought of him featuring on HipHop songs and laughed when I heard he was planning a HipHop album. Then I heard “Locked Out Of Heaven”, the first single off of second album “Unorthodox Jukebox” and I had to buy the album after a few listens to other songs on YouTube. 

With Mark Ronson joining The Smeezingtons for production on the album there is a Amy Winehouse “Back To Black”-esque sound to the entire album. Similar to Winehouse, Bruno is introducing a pop audience to a hybrid of genres ranging from Jazz to Reggae and R&B to Rock, adding his own smooth vocals and natural charisma to a potentially classic album. 

The first song, “Young Girls” reminds me of Bruno’s hit “Grenade” with the vocals and instrumental but the lyrics and message is quite different. The song focuses on no matter what “young wild girls” do he always goes back to them, something his teenage audience will relate to and with the flawless vocals the song is definitely a potential number one.

The second song on the album is the hit single “Locked Out Of Heaven” which I would say deserves nominations for best pop song of 2012. The song wouldn’t be out of place on a Michael Jackson album and has been likened to “Beat It”, although it may be too early to compare Mars to the Pop Legend. Either way this song is a vast lyrical improvement on “Just The Way You Are” as it essentially shares a similar concept but has more subtle lyricism with adult nature. 

I have no idea what Bruno’s obsession with primates is, but I don’t approve of it. Similar to “The Lazy Song”, third track “Gorilla” is one of Mars’ downfalls. A mix of Jessie J’s “Like A Dude”, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and any pop/rock band filler vocals, the song just doesn’t work for me. I don’t particularly understand how “having sex like gorillas” is supposed to be sexy either…

“Treasure” is a small improvement from the previous track but is no where near the best song on the album. Reminiscent of a typical 70’s disco track, I gather some will love it and others will hate it. The auto tuned ad-lib which repeats whichever lyric Mars sings in the chorus gives much needed variety to Mars’ consistent sound but depletes a little respect for his singing credentials. 

The opening to “Moonshine” blew me away however after the jaw-dropping first verse it loses its coolness. Potentially because the chorus is a real come down and after the disappointment the rest of the song faced an uphill battle to win me over again. Nevertheless it is a major improvement on the two previous singles and if released will be a contender for number one. 

Tissues at the ready as third single “When I Was Your Man” is a tear jerker at its best. Slow piano instrumental with Bruno serenading the microphone with his breathtaking voice matched with simple lyrics that will relate to his audience. The emotion in his voice may not be as prominent as Eminem’s in “Difficult” but it is enough to add to the sadness of the song. Although the lack of dance beat like his previous hit number ones may hurt its chances of achieving similar success; it is a song which can be respected by music fans of all genres and is my personal favourite of the album. 

Cue the “Dirty Diana” MJ comparisons with track 7 “Natalie”. The track similar to the Jacko classic talks about a gold digging woman however I dare say this song has better qualities than “Dirty Diana” as it has much more personality and attitude and the profanity is well placed unlike most modern songs. The chorus and verse could link a little better with some more instrumental but other than that I have no criticism of a near perfect song and a sure future hit. 

“Show Me” is a song which I hope will grow on me but right now it is splitting my opinion. A real chilled reggae song which could have been one of the better songs of the album is hurt by Mars inconsistent accent and some awful “boom boom boom”. I was surprised to notice there were no vocal features on the album and I don’t understand why a reggae singer or rapper was not featured on this    

From one extreme to another as “Money Make Her Smile” is a polar opposite of “Show Me”. The production, from Diplo, begins with an electronic sound similar to Kanye West’s “808’s & Heartbreaks” and flows into a “No Church In The Wild”-esque sound with Bruno’s vocals sounding very much like Fall Out Boy or Cobra Starship in the chorus. Rather than the woman’s voice on loop I do think an Azealia Banks collaboration would take it to another level. The song is one of the standouts to me but I doubt the general public would agree. 

The final song of the album “If I Knew” instantly reminded me of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gon Come” in the opening and chorus with a retro soul sound throughout with rock-like guitar sounds adding to an amazing production. It may not be the best song on the album but it was a perfect choice to end the album.

Overall I think this is the best album I have heard since Watch The Throne and best pop album in years. There is a lot of influence which can be spotted in Bruno Mars’ music but in the end it always sounds new, fresh and original as he combines them together to create his unique sound. The addition of Mark Ronson was a stroke of genius as he added his magic to make this album what it is, like he did with “Back To Black”. Mars will constantly be likened to Michael Jackson but I don’t think he is at that level, yet. All it will take is one album full of instant classics and number ones and he will have cemented his name in the music industry forever; “Unorthodox Jukebox” is a giant leap in the right direction. Bruno Mars might not be the King Of Pop, but he is the King of Love Songs. 

Stand Out Song(s) – Locked Out Of Heaven/When I Was Your Man

Album/Mixtape rating – 4/5

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