Review: Bruno Mars – “Unorthodox Jukebox”

My first impression after listening to “Unorthodox Jukebox:" Bruno Mars’ voice is smooth. Rich, hot-chocolate smooth.

After the incredible success that was his first album, “Doo-Wops and Hooligans,” it was only to be expected that the suave Mars’ sophomore album would pack another major punch. “Unorthodox Jukebox” is a melting pot of musical styles, overflowing with hints of pop, rock, soul, R&B and Bruno’s signature Motown vibes.

It’s as if “Unorthodox Jukebox” is his schizophrenic retaliation to the criticism that he was a one-trick pony on “Doo-Wops and Hooligans.” And you know what? I think my ears have fallen in love.

Screenshot by Emily Akin/Gavel Media

The first single from this album, entitled “Locked Out of Heaven,” was an immediate iTunes hit and continues to burn up the charts. With its solid bass line and jazzy drumbeats, this track is so catchy you can’t help but sing along. The higher notes in the chorus showcase Bruno’s unbelievably clear voice and impressive vocal range.

During this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Bruno serenaded the scantily-clad models with “Young Girls.” This is one of the best songs on the album, tearing at your heart with each chorus. The soulful, ballad-like melody captures Mars’ daily struggles of being faced with too many wildly-adoring girls. You poor thing, Bruno, having to deal with beautiful women constantly throwing themselves at you. We all feel for you. Really.

Mars goes for a different sound on the track “Treasure,” which embraces disco and classic R&B boy-band beats. When this song comes on it is literally impossible to refrain from a little shoulder bobbing and in-your-seat dancing. It’s Bruno Mars in his element and it’s nothing short of awesome. Mars sticks to the funky beats with “Natalie,” which tells the tale of a woman who stole Bruno’s heart and money when she left him. It’s upbeat and sassily promises that “he’s coming, so she’d better run.”

Screenshot by Emily Akin/Gavel Media

The identity crisis on “Unorthodox Jukebox” starts with “Show Me,” when Mars brings a totally different style to the album with classic reggae melodies. The steel drum makes you feel like you’re listening to Bruno perform on the beach of a tropical island with the ocean breeze in your hair. The drum vibes continue on “Moonshine,” another song that transports you to an ethereal state. It’s relaxing and sensual, while the beat induces toe-tapping with a retro synthesizer sound reminiscent of classic disco club jams.

Mars continues to play with melodic breadth on the album, and the slow ballad “When I Was Your Man” absolutely drips with the pain of heartbreak and regret. This song is one of the best apologies written into music that I have heard in a long time. I sincerely hope that this mystery girl can hear the genuine sorrow which shines through the heartbreak in Mars’ voice. If not, I’m always available as a shoulder to cry on.

The heartache continues on “If I Knew,” a short but sweet '60s throwback. I can just see him on stage with that pompadour hairdo and old-fashioned microphone singing right through the heart of every girl in the audience.

Screenshot by Emily Akin/Gavel Media

What could possibly complete the odd mixture of sound and narrative that is “Unorthodox Jukebox,” you ask? A stripper song, obviously. In “Money Make Her Smile,” Bruno removes his classy fedora and pulls out his wad of singles. The strong percussion and electronic background sounds combine with his signature vocals to create a totally different sound from the rest of the album that scores big. This is definitely one of those hits that sneaks up on you with its sexy, intoxicating sound.

Staying on this slightly risqué route, “Gorilla” is – simply put – a song about sex. The style of this song is anthem-like with arena-rock keyboard and guitar sounds that will definitely have whole stadiums singing along to the “oohs” in the chorus. The lyric that sums up this song is, “You and me baby, making love like gorillas!” How exactly do gorillas make love? Is it furry? Are there bananas involved? So many burning questions left unanswered!

Anyone else noticing a monkey theme?
Screenshot by Emily Akin/Gavel Media

“Unorthodox Jukebox” accomplishes exactly what Mars set out to do on his second studio album. He proves that he can do more than doo-wop. After all, he is a tough guy now! See, he was arrested for cocaine possession since “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” was released. This album, with all of its strippers and gorilla sex, is Mars’ way of reasserting this new-found bad guy image.

Maybe he could have spread the love over a few different albums, but ultimately “Unorthodox Jukebox” is just that: a jukebox packed with an assortment of songs that somehow work together. It is a smash hit, in my opinion. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with a vocal talent like Bruno’s, but the variety in this album really highlights his versatility and his ability to command the melody.

 

Gavel Media Rating: 7/10

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Samantha Costanza