After winning the title of ‘World’s Most Popular Man with a Girl’s Face’ after the release of his 2010 debut Doo Wops & Hooligans, Bruno Mars’ difficult second, brilliant titled Unorthodox Jukebox, has a lot to live up to within his, assumedly, pre-teen audience. Using Wikipedia, Mars’ output can be helpfully pinned down to ‘Reggae fusion, pop, soul, and R&B’, so, because it’s Christmas, it seems fair to compare him to a selection box, or, a collection of things individually liked by different people, but rarely all liked by one person.
To continue the selection box analogy, this album does have its fair share of decent things to choose from. ‘Treasure’ is an incredibly catchy mo-town-esque number that proves being ‘clichéd’ isn’t necessarily a negative thing, as its use of lyrical standards throughout proves that sometimes keeping it simple can be equivocal with keeping it perfect. ‘When I Was Your Man’ is another high quality tune that uses the album’s key theme of regret over past lovers to its best potential, managing to be intimate and cleverly narrative-based, even if the piano sounds exactly like Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. Closer ‘If I Knew’ is the Galaxy Bar though, with its simplistic finger picked background, jazzy backing vocals and insightful, emotional lyrics creating a short, sweet, and perfect ending to the album.
However, like all selection boxes, this album has its fair share of shit. For example, ‘Young Girls’ sounds weird, but that might just be because hearing ‘you young wild girls I always come back to you’ through post- Jimmy Saville scandal ears. A big problem is that a lot of the songs come off as clichéd, for example ‘Show Me’ is forgotten instantly, ‘Natalie’, the latest in this trend of naming songs after women, was the standard, tiresome ‘grrr women are money-grabbing sluts’ affair, and ‘Moonshine’ is so lame that it just falls to the floor to rest in a sloppy, awful mess.
The albums lowest point is ‘Gorilla’. The debauchery and synths in the opening actually reminded me of The Weeknd for a short while, but the weird vocals and glossy, Disney sheen that followed turned it more in a Weekdy school trip to the zoo. The song’s use of ‘motherfucker’ also seems surprising, as I was under the impression Mars was a squeaky-clean, Jesus Christ-esque figure to pre-teen girls. Although maybe that’s the world we live in; children running around with swastika shaped knives calling me a ‘motherfucker’ before stabbing me, all in time to run home and eat the dinner their mother’s cooked them off plastic ‘Hello Kitty’ plates.
This album is a living, breathing embodiment of ‘hit-and-miss’. When it shines, it soars, but when it doesn’t, it really just slips off the top diving board and lands belly-first in the water. Despite this, there is enough decent songs to cover the singles, so hey-ho, Mars’ reign over pop music will continue, and for what it’s worth I won’t be complaining too much, I’ll just pick the chocolate bars I like and give the rest to charity.