1. Track List (69)

Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic Is A Delight, More Skillful & Artistic Than Initially Thought

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 10 mins read

No matter how young or old you are, there’s just something so unmistakably endearing about the music modern R&B maestro Bruno Mars produces, as he’s able to capture the trends of today’s music industry whilst sparking a fire of nostalgia within your heart for the iconic sounds of yesteryear, casting the widest net of sonic tastes imaginable to satisfy virtually any type of listener alive today – It feels a bit strange yet also fulfilling to say this, ‘cause it goes to show how far Mars has come since he first hit the scene, taking an incredibly longue route to discover what sound actually defines him but doing so with the utmost efficacy. You see, at the release of Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Mars was somewhere between a happy-go-lucky Roots Rock performer like Jason Mraz & a barebones Pop idol with no integrity whatsoever, churning out painfully generic tunes such as “Grenade” & “Just The Way You Are” that lacked a sense of personality, so clearly designed to appeal to young, typically-female mainstream audiences that he was more of a joke than someone you’d actually want to spend your hard-earned cash on; I mean, I certainly couldn’t stand a single track he released until I heard him cover Mark Ronson’s “Valerie” as a tribute to Amy Winehouse at the MTV Video Music Awards – Of course, with fame & status came identity & comfort for Mars, using his platform to shell out music that aligned with his interests growing up, suddenly introducing modern millennial audiences to New Jack Swing, R&B Slow Jams, Funk & all manner of Soul jams in the subsequent years, thus turning him into a powerhouse of personality you couldn’t bring yourself to look away from, culminating at long last with his most recent album 24K Magic which is by all standards the best record he’s ever put into the ether; It’s a collection of songs that are wholly unique to this day & age whilst simultaneously championing the greatest subgenres to have ever hit the classic R&B scenes, educating contemporary listeners & bringing a smile to the faces of old-heads such as myself in the best of ways. Even so, it’s not without its faults, as it’s one thing to take inspiration from the past but it’s another entirely to attempt fusing such techniques with today’s ideals, a feat he certainly accomplishes for the vast majority of 24K Magic but that quickly becomes a detrimental crutch on a handful of numbers throughout.

One More Time For The Playa’s

Nowadays, the younger generations have done a fantastic job of erasing a lot of toxic masculinity from popular culture, whether it be in the way we treat women in public spaces or even in how we talk about them in music material, but just a few short years ago in 2016 we hadn’t quite escaped the pimp mentalities which have prospered in R&B music for decades now. As such, 24K Magic as an album is structured entirely around the idea of being a mack who demands attention, promoting the once-declining playa-culture with a fresh coat of paint & giving egotistical club-vultures a leg to stand on through which they can flaunt their stuff & act like they’re the hottest shit to have ever hit the streets – Nowhere is this more apparent than in the titular track “24K Magic,” in which Bruno Mars takes on the persona of a rich, confident, fast-talking playa ready to make the entire world his bitch, callously boasting his superiority to every other male in the room & treating the dating scene like his buffet line to pick & choose from as he pleases, essentially showcasing a new side of his personality he’d shied away from back when he was still singing tender crooners of undying adoration to 16-year old girls in his earlier days. That said, it’s an incredible jam of epic proportions, featuring fantastic synthesized instrumentation pulled straight from the New Jack Swing & Electro Funk joints Cameo & The Gap Band were dropping back in the eighties, from its clever use of Korg & Casiotone keyboard melodies to its 808-produced percussion grooves that have a distinctly rigid & powerful strike, assaulting your ears with nothing but pure braggadocious machismo over some of the boldest Funk melodies in the industry; He even employs a heavy dose of keytar-style vocoder effects to capture the sound of the eighties Dance scene in earnest, reminding listeners the technology has been an integral part of R&B-adjacent music since the beginning before T-Pain re-popularized the sound for today’s audiences – While all of the techniques used within are nothing new to the industry, the sense of jubilance & pride somehow is, bringing back a wave of positivity to the mainstream radio circuit that had been disappearing slowly but surely ever since Indie Folk music was replaced by breathy Tumblr-chic Synth Pop in the early-teens. Is that enough for me to overlook the fact that Bruno Mars tried to get away with marketing himself as this charismatic badass who’s just swimming in sexual encounters on a daily basis, when in reality he’s actually a hopeless romantic with a soft-spot for tender ballads? No, not at all, but I’ll be damned if this song comes on & I don’t lose my shit completely on the dancefloor, putting on a show for all who dare to dance within 5 to 10 feet of me.

A Kid Set Free In A Candy Shop

As I’d alluded to in my introductory statement, one of the things that makes Bruno Mars such a legend these days is the absolute artistic freedom he earned himself by becoming a Pop idol with Doo-Wops & Hooligans, so incredibly adored by fans & critics alike that he’s able to take stylistic risks & just release track after track of jams that’re essentially homages to all the music he grew up with, knowing full-well that he’ll be received as a visionary rather than anyone daring to admit he’s just crafting covers of the industry’s greatest musicians with slightly updated lyrics – Take, for instance, 24K Magic’s most underappreciated tune “Perm,” a track that which undeniably takes its inspiration directly from the library of the ‘Godfather of Soul’ himself, James Brown. This track is a masterpiece of classic Funk & Soul composition, featuring a delightfully flight-footed bassline that hits the eardrums like a ton of bricks, a somewhat Breaks Beat-style drum sequence you could imagine playing as the backing track whilst some ruffians pull off head-spins & t-flares on a piece of cardboard down in the New York subway & a vocal melody that’s straight-up nasty in every sense of the word, embodying the excitement, bravado & sexual exhilaration of Brown’s iconic sound down to a tee. On the other end of the spectrum, you have songs like “Versace On The Floor” that’d find a happy home on the airwaves back in the eighties around the time Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder had started putting warm Rhodes pianos & New Wave-ish electronic instrumentation into their R&B ballads, what with its somewhat muffled sonic profile, tenderly-crooning vocal lines & ethereally spacey atmosphere, not to mention the devilishly-sensual music video which accompanies the tune – Of course, for every homerun, there’re also a few short-stop bunts that spoil the whole game, most notably “Straight Up & Down” which tries so foolishly to bring the skippy Bossa Nova Slow Jams Bobby Brown made in the late-eighties & early-nineties into the modern day; The intent to do well is certainly there thanks to the radiant pleasantries of soulful multi-layered vocal harmonies & things like wind-chimes that are remnants of a time long-gone, but Bruno Mars just doesn’t have the charisma or depth of vocal tone to really pully any of the vibe off correctly, a fish-out-of-water whose voice is too bright & clean to promote the same swagger & sex-appeal you need to make this track a hit, made even more awkward by the fact he’s using contemporary street-slang & rhythmic lyricism which doesn’t blend as seamlessly with the anachronistic sound as he’d probably have hoped – I can’t knock the guy for trying, as I don’t have even one iota of the talent necessary to sing at his level in any respect, but minor missteps such as these are much more obvious to modern listeners when they’re not implemented correctly, making it even more glaringly obvious that he’s just pulling from a wish-list of classic styles for each of these tracks rather than trying his best to change the game in any tangible manner.

You Can’t Tell Him He Ain’t Fly

For people who know even the slightest bit about me on a personal level, there’s no question at all that I absolutely love trashing music when it’s not up-to-par, especially for mainstream Pop icons who’re making such exorbitant sums of money from audiences who’re too dumb to notice when the quality of their favourite tunes is lacking, so it gives me great pleasure when I’m able to say with a genuinely straight face that someone at the top of their game like Bruno Mars is 100% deserving of the accolades they’ve received. 24K Magic made a tremendous splash when it released in 2016 & is still running strong today, racking up unfathomable view-counts across every prominent music platform out there & 3 years later I feel it’s just as solid a record as it was when it dropped, mixed to perfection & jam-packed with such a variety of styles that its value is increased tenfold, educating audiences on how broad-reaching R&B is as a genre in addition to giving them the inspiration to explore the music of yesteryear with open eyes & a fresh understanding, thus enriching the music industry altogether in ways so many artists with immense power consistently fail to do. Whether taking a moment to revel in the splendor of romantic attraction amidst the insatiable beats of “That’s What I Like” or kickin’ it old-school with some straight-up In Living Colour vibes in the magnificent “Finesse” that somehow manages to make Cardi B the queen of all fly-girls, you’re guaranteed to have a good time on this album from beginning to end without question – I know it’s easy to say ‘this is the best album of such & such year,’ as that’s pretty the statement you’ll get from any young listener these days about the music they love regardless of the actual technical skill involved, but 24K Magic is a veritable masterpiece that helped prove in 2016 that the music industry had legs left in it yet, still capable of wowing us & bringing joy to our lives despite the ever-encroaching march of Pop idealism into virtually every single genre today; When you consider that Bruno Mars was little more than an American Idol-level performer with an idgaf attitude & a very gimmicky style when he emerged on the scene, the incredible artistic growth he’s shown since is ever-more inspiring to behold, cementing 24K Magic as a contemporary classic we’ll be listening to long into the future when our hair has gone grey & the whole world is infected with STDs when Tinder replaces all traditional dating routines – Don’t laugh, you know it’s true…

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12. Artist Info

About

Peter Gene Hernandez (born October 8, 1985), known professionally as Bruno Mars, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and dancer. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mars moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to pursue a musical career. After being dropped by Motown Records, Mars signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 2009. In the same year, he co-founded the production team The Smeezingtons, responsible for various successful singles for Mars himself and other artists. In 2016, Shampoo Press & Curl replaced The Smeezingtons on the composition of Mars' third studio album, 24K Magic.
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Born

    1985-10-08

Active

    2004–present

Label

  • Universal Motown
  • Atlantic
  • Elektra