Doo-Wops & Hooligans

Bruno Mars

Elektra, 2010

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


First things first: The Smeezingtons, Bruno's production team, is the best name for a group of producers ever. I plan to work that in to my daily life any chance I get. Hilarious.

Anyway, on to this lively, charming debut record from the Honolulu-born Bruno Mars (real name: Joe, actually, it's Peter Hernandez). Few pop music debuts are this disarmingly friendly, seemingly genuine and talented. Bruno co-wrote all the songs, played most of the instruments and helped handle production (Smeezington! Gesundheit!). The man can sing, write songs, play instruments, produce and still keep a cool, charming, romantic personality. Must be tough.

Of course, whether this is the real Bruno Mars remains to be seen; in this cynical society, hearing "Just The Way You Are" seems at times like a ploy to get women. But the bulk of the lyrics are simply declarations of love, from him taking a grenade for you ("Grenade") to "Love You Just The Way You Are" to "Marry You" to "Count On Me." Even "Our First Time" is handled with grace, as is the pensive "Talking To The Moon."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Starting the disc with two neo-ballads is a risky move, and "Grenade" is hardly the way to announce yourself to the world even if the lyrics are quasi-romantic ("put my hand on a blade for you"), but "Just The Way You Are" is an effortless, catchy tune, updating the sentiment of Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" with a pop/R&B twist.

Bruno seems inspired by Michael Jackson and Prince, among other modern-day R&B/soul/pop acts, but his debut never stoops to imitation, and his charm shines through on the Jack Johnson-influenced "Count On Me" and the sweet "Marry You." The best example of this breezy charm is "The Lazy Song," which uses a slight reggae beat to devote three minutes to the joys of procrastination: "Gonna kick my feet up, gonna stare at the fan / Turn the TV on, throw my hand in my pants / Nobody's gonna tell me I can't." Note: The album version is a bit slower than the single version and omits the whistle hook throughout the song. The single is a bit more fun but both are equally effective.

The closing "The Other Side" has a bit more gravity and features cameos from Cee-Lo Green and B.O.B., but the real surprise is "Runaway Baby," a pop-rock-soul rave-up that is an absolute blast musically and a letdown lyrically, with boastful lyrics about "eager young bunnies" and how Bruno the hooligan has "only one carrot and they all gotta share it." It's a fun song but it makes one wonder about the sincerity of the rest of the disc. Or  maybe it doesn't matter; he's young, he's talented, and he's going to have fun, but deep down he wants to eventually commit and find that lady he would take a grenade for. Time will tell.

The straight reggae of "Liquor Store Blues" (with Damian Marley), the wispy "Count On Me" and the forgettable "Our First Time" are the misfires here, and although "Grenade" is interesting lyrically the music doesn't quite hold up. But it's still one Smeezington of a debut, signaling a new talent and an artist worth watching, and its best moments ring true with the simple joys of new love and good times.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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