Album Reviews

Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops And Hooligans

(Atlantic) UK release date: 17 January 2011

The national press might only now have clocked on to the success ofTinie Tempah in 2010, but there was also a Stateside import whoenjoyed similar riches, though so far with lesser hindsight recognition.

Bruno Mars was the voice behind some of the year’s biggesthits, including Billionaire and Nothing On You. And as a co-writer of Cee LoGreen‘s chart-topping Fuck You, he’s looking to invest in a larger chest for allhis royalties. Add to those achievements the remarkable end-of-yearsuccess of Just The Way You Are and the fact that at the time ofwriting, current single Grenade sits pretty at the top of the charts,he’s building on the momentum that swept through from last year.

Of course, it’s not actually all dandy and, well, Doo-Wops. InSeptember Mars was arrested with possession of cocaine and has aFebruary date penned in for a much-postponed court trial. But any harmdone to his reputation is quietly phased out by thesinger-songwriter’s first full length album.

Despite the title, Mars’ debut doesn’t pitch its tent in la-laland. Granted, Just The Way You Are is without rival the sappiestballad to grace our music channels for�some�time, disguised as aquirky pop song by having the tempo stepped up a notch. And yes, TheLazy Song, which narrates on one of Mars’ “off-days”, involvingwatching the TV with his hands down his pants, is nauseatingly smugand zany. Yet the bewitching inclusion of a token reggae song,featuring Damian Marley, has Bruno reciting his sorrow and”liquor store blues”. There’s a bad side to this Hawaiian-born,bright-eyed youngster, but only here is it hinted at.

Now, here’s what’s wrong with Doo-Wops And Hooligans. The album’sethos involves throwing everything into the fire.We move from the silky, Michael Jackson-esque Our First Time,where we find Mars making a charming comparison: “Like ice cream on asunny day, gonna eat you before you melt away.” Then immediately after, we’re thrown into bad-boy pop-punkrealms during Runaway Baby, with its police sirens and scratchy guitarlines.

It’s a contrast taken too far.�Think of every single The X-Factorspecial you’ve ever been subjected to watching. Now, most likelyyou’ll remember whole two-hour slots devoted to Jackson, EltonJohn and Mariah Carey. Mars has quite remarkably extractedthemes from every one of those shows,�incorporating�each into hisdebut, from glossy, over-sentimental ballads (Talking To The Moon) toan all-out, shameless dispatching of joy (Marry Song).

That’s the weakness of many debut pop�albums. They can’t help butbe opportunistic, covering all bases and ensuring that, regardless ofany forthcoming trends in pop, there’s a song on the album, pitched totake grasp of it all. The duets with Cee Lo and Marley feel false, asdoes the gleeful mood of the title and the majority of the songs. But onemust admit that legitimacy won’t come into the equation of Doo-Wop’ssales, which should be colossal given Mars’ current run of form.

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Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops And Hooligans

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