October 14, 2010

Test Spins: Bruno Mars

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When B.o.B. released his debut single “Nothin’ On You” last spring, few people outside of the music industry knew the name Bruno Mars. But, by summer’s end, the man had made quite a name for himself. “Nothin’ On You,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in May and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” which Mars co-wrote, produced and was featured on, made it all the way to #4 in August.

In an attempt to take advantage of that momentum, Mars released Its Better If You Don’t Understand on May 11. Said EP was supposed to hint at what a Bruno Mars solo album would sound like. And, given that ¾ of the tracks from the EP made their way onto Doo-Wops and Hooligans, it succeeded in that respect.

EP track “The Other Side,” is both the album’s closing number and its strongest offering. Sporting features from B.o.B. and Cee-Lo, a thumping baseline and the occasional wolf howling in the background, “The Other Side” is one of the few dark numbers on Doo-Wops. “Count on Me” is a simple but effective song that girls will go crazy for, and “Talking to the Moon” is an incredibly radio-friendly ballad. Make no mistake, all three of the recycled tracks are strong, but it’s frustrating that old material comprises 30 percent of the record.

The new material is more of a mixed bag. Lead single, “Just the Way You Are” is wisely aimed at Mars’ female fanbase, but the faint breakbeat prevents it from alienating male listeners. The follow up, “Grenade,” is a surefire hit with its over the top imagery and soaring vocals. Then there’s “Marry You,” a song that absolutely merits single status, for its ability to highlight all of Bruno’s strengths.

In stark opposition to these tracks are numbers like “The Lazy Song,” and “Our First Time.” The latter of the two is utterly forgettable, and the former memorable for all of the wrong reasons.


Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht