Music Review: Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox

posted by dpm on 02/27/2013

...And that is exactly what this sophomore production is--unorthodox.  Yet Bruno Mars’, or as his childhood friends probably refer to him as, Peter Gene Hernandez, delivery is artful and spoony.  His crooning is humorous at times and downcast during others, and his style seems to have a foot-in-decades-of-past ubiquity that gets you feeling like you’ve heard it before—but not in a bad way.  In fact, this release from the Honolulu-born phenom, turns out to be something shockingly novel. 

Since its December release, Unorthodox Jukebox has quickly become quite the sweetheart from alternative, to pop, to crossover college radiowaves coast-to-coast; he’s taken to the stage and bathed in the limelight on Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel, and The X-Factor , to name a few.  To say the least, this boy’s got mad talent and is not afraid of showcasing it. He’s figured out how to thump his puffed-out chest with muy machismo, yet hang onto the modest maven, all the while tapping into an unquestionable solid gold nostalgia no one is ashamed of grooving to.

Upon first listen, Unorthodox Jukebox had my impressions tied up in a messy bowtie of Michael Jackson, UB40-by-way-of-Harry Belafonte, Billy Joel, and Warner Brothers-era Prince. Track number one—“Young Girls”—shamelessly presses on the gas pedal and drives directly into the pop song sun, fully igniting a splendidly rhythmic solar flair.  A fan favorite, “Locked out of Heaven”, which happens to be the first single released, hugs tightly to a Police-esque blend of peppy beats, revealing a  spicy dash of island influence.  “Gorilla”, though a little brazen, is crafty as hell, and takes piano rock to new levels.  “Treasure”, the album’s fourth track, rides the crest of a warm wave of circa 1982 Earth, Wind, and Fire, exemplifying Motown’s finest talent.  The album slows down a bit, working through a vibrant meadow of “Moonshine,” a funky ballad entitled “When I was your Man”, and the acrimonious “Natalie,” a from-the-gut song about a hot-rod-of-a-gal who laughs at heartbreak, and scoffs at making up.  The final three songs remind me of how Prince managed to always land that culminating 1-2 punch at the end of each album.  “Show Me” takes an intoxicating spin down Caribbean lane, while the raging “Money Make Her Smile” strips off its shirt to bare truth, and “If I Knew” is a soulful outro sadly reminiscing over a pondering blues guitar.

Though it is out of the ordinary for me to purchase a pop monster like this, I knew I was going to be getting something much deeper and absolute. Take it from me, swindlers of the rock, for a mere $5.99, this album will have you repenting your sins of depravity, degeneracy, and debauchery!        

By Chris Duca

You can sample the full album on Youtube here.