Unorthodox Jukebox

Bruno Mars

Atlantic, 2012

http://www.brunomars.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/22/2014

What happened, Bruno?

Only two years ago, Mr. Mars would take a grenade for you, be there when you called, kick his feet up and stare at the fan and love you just the way you were, but something happened in the last two years to sour the man on the opposite sex. It's a shame, because Unorthodox Jukebox has potential to be great, but the sleazy songs drag down the rest of the quality work.

Bruno, of course, mixes pop, R&B, soul, rock and reggae like nobody else today, which has made him a star; it helps that he can sing, and that Grammy is deserved. "Locked Out Of Heaven" is one of the great singles of the last two years, with more hooks than a tackle box, as they say (after they have been drinking and hanging out with the Smeezingtons). On the flip side is "When I Was Your Man," a completely sincere, heartbreaking lament of a love gone bad. Refreshingly, Bruno blames himself instead of his ex and wishes her well. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Flavors of Prince and Michael Jackson enhance the proceedings, as on the breezy hit "Treasure" and the flawless Motown homage "If I Knew," while the album track "Moonshine" is the best song here, with an alt-rock guitar lick, a slowed-up disco beat and a great chorus that ties it all together. It's too esoteric to be a hit, but its depth proves that Bruno is a true artist (as before, he co-writes all the songs and plays many of the instruments).

But then, major trouble. I don't know if Bruno got his heart broken or if one too many shallow girls got into his head, but he takes a dim view of the fairer sex in juvenile lyrics and attacks like "Natalie," an attack on a money-hungry ex with a creepy undercurrent (“If you see her, tell her I’m coming / She better run”) that renders the sentiment of “When I Was Your Man” questionable. Which one is the real Bruno Mars?

Worse is the cocky "Young Girls," in which Bruno attends the John Mayer School Of Charm and figures that, since his popularity prevents him from settling down, he will just sleep with as many women as he can. An immature cop-out answer from a young man, that is, as is "Money Make Her Smile," wherein the title says it all. "Show Me" is straight reggae that is little more than a come-on from that dude at the end of the bar who has been staring at you for two hours.

The absolute nadir is the bizarre "Gorilla," a fairly graphic tale of rough sex that is supposed to be funny, I supopse, but ends up creepy and too intimate, like hearing Bruno boast in pornographic detail about his conquest to his frat buddies. Someone in a gorilla costume adorns both the cover and inside jacket sleeve of the CD; maybe it's an in-joke? I don't care.

So, if half the songs are disturbing, is it worth it? Well, those who agree with Bruno's message, or who don't care, will enjoy it, and again the other five songs are good enough to overcome the flaws. But the music and lyrics show a shift from the breezy charm of Doo-Wops And Hooligans and paint a picture of an artist who is becoming difficult to like, no matter how much he may treasure you or say he feels bad about not buying you flowers. The dual nature of this disc makes it difficult to recommend, but the best songs here make it worth a listen. Just don't be surprised if you feel icky when it's over.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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