Bruno Mars Dazzles on Throwback ’24K Magic’
Pop singer-songwriter Bruno Mars returns in electrifying fashion on his highly anticipated, third album, 24K Magic.
“If you ain’t here to party, take your ass back home!” Sigh, pop sensation Bruno Mars is carefree on his highly anticipated third album, 24K Magic. For the Grammy-winning musician, the M.O. of his third album is having fun. Fun from Mars’ perspective includes partying, ladies, and looking back to R&B of the past as inspiration. Upon listening to 24K Magic, it’s clear that he hasn’t missed a beat in spite of a five-year hiatus between albums (Unorthodox Jukebox, 2011).
“24K Magic” initiates the album fiercely, drenched in swagger. Mars elevates himself as the player of players, spitting mad game. If he did happen to lack confidence, it never shows on this slick funk opener which feels like a perfect follow-up to megahit “Uptown Funk.” “24K Magic” is 80s to the core, with the introductory vocoder leading the charge. The chorus is infectious:
“Players only, come on / put your pinky rings up to the moon / Girls, what y’all trying to do? / 24 karat magic in the air / head to toe so player / uh, look out!”
“Chunky” slackens the pace, but continues to groove hard. Once more, Mars relishes in his role as a player. Carefree, the ultimate M.O. is sex:
“Chunky / looking for them girls with the big old hoops / that drop it down in daisy dukes / Yeah, I am the one, so I’m trying to recruit.”
Apparently, Bruno Mars and Nelly Furtado are on the same page. Furtado once sang “the bigger, the better” on “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better),” a song that wasn’t about earrings in the least.
“Perm” looks further back in the R&B catalog for inspiration – think 1960s funk. The corny spoken word intro sets the tone:
“Now look at you, been walking in here looking all pretty and angry and mean and good…”
Mars opts for a tongue-n-cheek, spoken word performance – its less concerned with pitch. Though he vocal itself isn’t prodigious, Mars continues to command the audience. The best lyrics include “Throw some perm on your attitude” and “You need to activate your sexy.” Get it Bruno.
“That’s What I Like” slows the tempo once more, maintaining groove much like “Chunky.” The 80s cues return, but “That’s What I Like” is much more contemporary compared to the three tracks that precede it. The bridge, not to mention the falsetto represent the high-flying moments.
“Versace on the Floor”
“Versace on the Floor” is a crowning achievement, giving 24K a truly sensational ballad. Here, Mars fully embraces the 80s. He delivers beautiful vocals, arguably some of the best of his career. Another song conceived around sex, he does incorporate legit emotions nonetheless. Another key feature is a key change, common in 80s R&B. Here, the key change allows Mars to further soar vocally.
“Straight Up & Down” incorporates the signature, raw 80s and early 90s drum programming. Even with such an anachronistic feature given the bounds and leaps of urban contemporary production, the record itself remains fresh. Like most of the songs from 24K Magic, “Straight Up & Down” excels on a catchy chorus. Follow up “Calling All My Lovelies” doesn’t miss a beat, even if it is slightly less distinct compared to its contemporaries.
“Finesse” and “Too Good to Say Goodbye”
Mars closes out the brief 24K Magic with two gems. The slick “Finesse” dabbles in the now defunct New Jack Swing movement. Perhaps the movement deserves a resurgence – Mars truly does “shut the shit down on sight/…drippin’ in finesse.” Essentially, Mars and his lady make a formidable team. Big-time ballad “Too Good to Say Goodbye” concludes exceptionally, thanks to a valedictory vocal performance from Mars and the production talents of Babyface. Old school, he nails it.
All in all, Bruno Mars kills it on 24K Magic. At times, it’s corny AF, overindulging in its own swagger. For the most part, however, it clicks on all cylinders. Mars is a terrific vocalist, something that is never inhibited with such elaborate production work. At nine tracks, there are no misses, making 24K Magic a tight, consistent album.
Gems: “24K Magic,” “Versace on the Floor,” “Finesse” & “Too Good to Say Goodbye”
Bruno Mars • 24K Magic • Atlantic • Release: 11.18.16
Photo Credit: Atlantic