It’s Better If You Don’t Understand
In-between two No. 1 hits — the incandescent summer glow of B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You” and the romantic swooning of his own “Just the Way You Are” — Bruno Mars’s record label Elektra decided to toss a bone to his hungry new followers. Like Mars himself, this four-track EP arrived without a glimmer of hype. In fact, the average Joe cranking Mars’s heart-melting croon on “Nothin’ on You” in his car probably wasn’t aware that it existed. This is, after all, a snack, something to tide hardcore fans over until the feast is ready — a full-length album that hopes to continue Mars’ seemingly quick conquest of fickle teenage ears. That Mars’ sweet, soulful voice recalls that of the late Michael Jackson is partially responsible for his success.
Whether people are aware of it or not, Mars’s vocal resemblance to MJ plugs into a subconscious longing to hear the Gloved One again in the same way that Bush and the Offspring blasted into the stratosphere after their hero Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Mars’s history of impersonating Jackson as a kid is no surprise; even in adulthood, Mars shares the innocent, boyish caress of Jackson’s voice. This can be heard in the opening cut, “Somewhere in Brooklyn.” With its childlike electronics and lost-love lyrics, Mars manages to capture Jackson’s adolescent naiveté and grown-up loneliness in the same track. However, it should be clarified that Mars is no Jackson imitator. In fact, Mars is perhaps more eclectic than Jackson ever was. Nevertheless, the similarities cannot be denied. The dreamy “The Other Side” is aptly titled, a dreamy reflection on mortality that features spiraling, sparkling guitars à la Coldplay. Cee Lo Green lends bluesy depth as Mars ventures into darker territory.
By the third tune, “Count on Me,” it becomes obvious that Mars has no stylistic restrictions. Freeing himself from the R&B influences that characterize his most popular work thus far, “Count on Me” is an acoustic-pop entry that would snugly fit into Jason Mraz’s discography. Saving the best for last, “Talking to the Moon” sounds like MJ fronting Coldplay (or Coldplay covering MJ as Mars’ soaring falsetto is equal to Chris Martin’s), sobbing piano exploding into an exhilarating, life-affirming chorus. It conjures the kind of magic that pop music isn’t supposed to anymore.
Bruno Mars: www.brunomars.com