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Bruno Mars, how I hate you. This is the man who, thanks to an incredible proposal, which can be seen on You Tube, based around his song "Marry You" from his 2010 debut album "Doo-Wops & Hooligans", has ensured that a guy like me, in a long-term relationship and contemplating a proposal, has a lot of work to do to make it acceptable. What's also really annoying is that he's rather good at what he does.
The album opens with the gentle pop-dance sounds of "Young Girls", which sounds like it could have been a Calvin Harris track with Bruno Mars on vocals. Despite the dance beats, it's quite a soothing track and it's interesting to hear a modern pop song with lyrics that aren't promoting a promiscuous lifestyle, with lines like "I still dream of a simple life / Boy meets girl, makes her his wife / But love don't exist when you live like this / That much I know". Musically, the song is a little non-descript and not a particularly stand out opener, but the lyrical content gives it extra significance.
The fast reggae sound and the backing vocals immediately make lead single "Locked Out of Heaven" sound like a remixed version of a song by The Police. Indeed, the references to sex hark back towards "Roxanne". It's a bouncy track and I can see why it was chosen as the lead single, as it's an enjoyable 4 minutes that doesn't seem to last nearly that long, particularly to someone like me who grew up in the 1980s and always liked The Police.
"Gorilla" is a bit of a mish-mash, but one that works incredibly well. The opening sounds a little like an R&B ballad, but the lyrical content has a much darker tone to it, with the first lines being "I've got a body full of liquor / With a cocaine kicker". It's an interesting combination of sweet and sharp, like chocolate with lime in it and it says a lot about Bruno Mars' smooth vocals and the largely cool, relaxed vibe of the song that can make "You and me, baby / Making love like gorillas" sound even vaguely romantic.
After the confusion that is the previous track, "Treasure" is straight out funk. The bass is high in the mix and this is all-retro 1970s style disco-funk. It's got a fantastic beat with a lot of bounce to it and whilst it doesn't stand out the way the previous tracks have done lyrically, it's got such a great toe-tapping, body moving beat that I just can't help but love it. The only shame is that this is a short track, running a few seconds short of 3 minutes, as I could listen to this one forever.
"Moonshine" knocks both the mood and the tempo back down, with a musically dark guitar opening. As the song progresses, there's a steady drum beat coming in, which gives the track a little more of a pop-dance feel to it and the tone brightens up a little. I can't claim to be a fan of the lyrics, which do seem to contain a nod towards drug use. Or indeed the song itself, which seems to be taking a pause for breath after its funky predecessor.
This is possibly just as well, as "When I Was Your Man" is a track that takes your breath away. It's a simply crafted pop-ballad with a soulful vocal. It's perhaps a little trite and clichéd, but it's put together beautifully and Mars' vocal is imbued with just the right amount of yearning to make the song feel heartfelt rather than just a song. I'm not often a fan of ballads, preferring a driving beat to my music, but this is one of the better examples of the pop ballad I've heard in some time.
The driving beat I like opens "Natalie" and this is a great fast paced pop-soul track. Lyrically and musically, this sounds like a song that escaped from Plan B's "Defamation of Strickland Banks" album. The lyrics are again a little predictable and quite basic, but the song is a lot of fun as a whole and zips past quite enjoyably.
The album seems to be in a fast song, followed by slow song loop at the moment, with "Show Me" slowing the tempo and adding a smooth pop-reggae beat. Once again, my 1980s childhood comes back to me, as this could have been a UB40 song, if Ali Campbell's vocals had been as strong as Bruno Mars' are. This is a song with the ideal smooth, end of the evening groove that really should be enjoyed with a glass of punch on a summer's evening, as the sun sets and the barbecue gently burns itself down.
The opening organ to this one sounds almost choral, until the bass kicks in and turns "Money Make Her Smile" into a pop-funk song, but with a much more modern sound than "Treasure". Later on, there's a heavily synthesised backing vocal and the song expands into another dance track. If you took Maroon 5 and had Calvin Harris write them a song, it might turn out a little something like this. I'm not a huge fan of Calvin Harris, although I do quite like Maroon 5, so I'm quite ambivalent about this track, much preferring the slower, funkier sections to the faster paced dance parts.
However, the album closes with a classic sound, with "If I Knew" having the laid back guitar-sound of a 1950s style rock 'n' roll ballad. If you think of the scene in "Back to the Future" when Marty McFly is on stage with the band, this is exactly the kind of song he was playing. It does liven up a little, but it's a beautifully soothing final track and, much like "Show Me", it's one for relaxing to at the end of a party or a meal.
This is an album that starts with a completely up to date sound and ends in the 1950s, with stops in most decades in between. In the hands of any other artist, such a variety of influences and sounds could have gone badly wrong, but Bruno Mars somehow manages to pull it off. Admittedly, he's not the best lyricist I've ever come across, descending into triteness on more than one occasion, but he has a wonderfully soulful vocal that seems to hold even such varying musical style together very well. This is an album that you can either play straight through or put on shuffle and you wouldn't hear two songs that sound the same either way.
On this album, every track sounds like it could have been someone else. That is perhaps the great success here - whilst Bruno Mars may sound like everyone else at points, he nearly always sounds like the very best of everyone else. Listening to the album too closely may take the edge off it, but if you have this album on whilst you're doing other things, or whilst driving, and don't concentrate too hard on the lyrical content, it's liable to be a delight. It's a pity that, with only 10 tracks and a 35 minute running time, it's a rather short album, but if you can grab a copy from 99p plus postage on eBay, or for less than £5 on the Amazon Marketplace, it's still pretty good value for money.
As good as the album is, I'm not sure this will become an instant favourite of mine and, despite the variations in sound, I can see my enjoyment of it becoming dulled quite quickly with repeated plays, barring a few tracks. But I can also see this being an album that I will come across in my collection a few years from now, having not played it for a while, and discovering that it is still a delight. This is an album that may not be an instant classic, but may prove to have some staying power somewhere down the line.
Let me start off by saying, I love Bruno Mars, he makes me feel weak at the knees, his music is amazing and persona seems fantastic. Unorthodox Jukebox is Bruno Mars' second album and was released at the end of last year. The album has ten tracks and a total running time of 34 mins 51 seconds.
--- Tracks ---
1. Young girls - 3:49 - The album kicks off with quite a slow song but Mars' voice definitely shines through and really makes it a good song. It gets deeper the more you listen to it and after listening to the words it sounds a little weird, but still the overall sound is good.
2. Locked out of heaven - 3:53 - I'm sure most people would have heard of this song, it's one of those that seems to stick in your head for the whole day after you've only listened to it once. It has a nice smooth feeling to it. It narrowly missed out on being a number one hit in the UK.
3. Gorilla - 4:04 - This track is all about making love like a gorilla, bit weird if you ask me but the track is still one I listen to as it has a gentle rock type feel to it and I generally like listening to it.
4. Treasure - 2:56 - I absolutely love this song, it sounds fantastic and has a happy feel good vibe to it and goes along with Mars' favourite 80's style. It's definitely one of my favourites on the album.
5. Moonshine - 3:48 - This track is one of the weaker ones of the album, it doesn't have any oompfh and one you listen to without taking any real interest in what it is about or what it sounds like. I don't particularly skip this track on purpose but half way through the song it does get a little boring.
6. When I was your man - 3:33 - Another one of my favourite songs of the album if this one. It's all about the things Mars should have done with his ex before he became famous. It is focused around the piano and sounds brilliant. It's really easy on the ear and just a brilliant song.
7. Natalie - 3:45 - We go from a slow song to a fast paced, fun loving song. It's all about a girl called Natalie who run away with all of his money. The story behind the song isn't fantastic but the song is one I listen to and enjoy all the same.
8. Show me - 3:27 - This is definitely one of the different tracks on the album with a reggae type feel with the steel drums and Mars' singing style matching that. It's nice to hear a different style from Bruno Mars and I like listening to this one.
9. Money make her smile - 3:23 - This is another weaker track. I don't quite understand it, again it's different, but not in a particularly good way. I normally skip this track as it has a weird beat and backing vocals.
10. If I knew - 2:12 - The final song on the album goes back to what Mars does next. Is vocals are amazing as always and it's a fitting end to the album leaving you wanting more.
--- Overall ---
I find that the album flows really well and there are no awkward songs placed in the wrong places. There are a couple of weaker songs on the album but the amazing songs in between those make you soon forget about the poorer ones and focus you more on what Bruno Mars does best. His style is definitely unique and I find it hard to find artists that are similar.
I would definitely recommend this album if you are a fan of Bruno Mars, or if you just like one or two of his songs, this album is sure to blow you away and I think it's worth a purchase!
Bruno Mars - what a star! His first album was a massive success, with hits such as Just The Way You Are and Grenade. Every girl fell for this man, and his second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, is sure to continue this music love affair.
Track by Track
1 - Young Girls - A steady but powerful opener to the album, this track is reminiscent of his previous tracks, with stunning and sleek vocals, similar to his track It Will Rain. An interesting lyric line, about young girls, how tempting they are and how wrong at the same time.Typical Bruno Mars style. Track rating = 4/5
2 - Locked Out Of Heaven - The first single release from the album, this is an excellent sing along song. Emotional and exciting, with excellent vocals and experimental noises ("ugh" being one...), I really love this song from start to finish! Definitely a winner for releasing as his single, it brought Bruno Mars straight back to the forefront of our memories. Track rating = 5/5
3 - Gorilla - A bit of a weird one, I feel uncomfortable listening to the lyrics of this track, which go on about making love like gorillas. But I can see where Bruno is coming from with the tune, and the words are very clever to bring out his point. It's a pretty rock ballad type track, with a catchy "ooo" chorus. Not the best, but good enough. Track rating = 2/5
4 - Treasure - This is quite eighties to me, you can imagine a tacky, brightly coloured video, and people in platform shoes rolling their arms above their head, underneath a disco ball... And this isn't a bad thing. Although it's not my favourite, its a cheery track and that's not to be sniffed at! Track rating = 3/5
5 - Moonshine - Cue the synthesizer! An interestingly simple track, it's very easy to listen to, and has easy words throughout, making the chorus quite easy to follow. Again, not a favourite, but it's ok for a middle track, and a rest from the more powerful songs. Track rating = 2/5
6 - When I Was Your Man - MY FAVOURITE!!! This is a stunning, beautiful track, in my opinion. A true gut wrencher, it hits the nerves definitely, and that's what I love about Bruno Mars' music. A typical ballad with lovely vocals, touching lyrics, and beautiful piano medley. Simple and effective. Track rating = 5/5
7 - Natalie - And straight into another favourite! Totally on the flip side to the previous number, Bruno is on a mission to get the gold digger Natalie, who ran away with all of his money. Powerful, catchy and brilliant - and I'm biased because it's named after me (although I'm no gold digger, I promise...!). Track rating = 5/5
8 - Show Me - Steel drums, caribbean feel and a relaxed backbeat make for easy listening, and a chorus that can be wailed along to if you feel so inclined. Time to chill with this song! Track rating = 4/5
9 - Money Make Her Smile - Clever lyrics, fitted into a futuristic style backing, this track demonstrates Bruno's vocal side pretty well, and I like that. It's a bit different, and yet it fits perfectly into the rest of the album. It'll do for me! Track rating = 3/5
10 - If I Knew - Back to typical Bruno Mars with this final track, this is a pretty, lilting track, featuring harmonies which are highly enviable. It's a pretty powerful ending number for the album, which leaves you wanting to flick straight back to track number one and start again. Don't end this love affair now, Bruno, sing to me again! Track rating = 4/5
What about the cover?
As usual, I bought this album off iTunes, and so I haven't had chance to see the inlay, but the front cover consists of a beige background, and a gorilla studying a jukebox. Original, basic and yet eye catching. Bruno Mars' name is clearly printed, with Unorthodox Jukebox scrawled beneath. It keeps it simple, and I think this is in perfect matching with the tracks - clean, simple and yet brilliant, all in one.
Is it worth purchasing?
Yes, I would definitely recommend this album. If you're a Bruno Mars fan, I doubt you'll need much persuading, but if you're not too sure, then just take the plunge. Bruno has a distinctive sound which is emanated throughout the album, giving you the full Mars experience, and this could never be a bad thing! I paid £8.99 on iTunes for this album, and it's worth every penny, in my opinion at least!
Any final words?
Bruno Mars has been a favourite of mine since he hit the scene a few years back, and this album hasn't let me down. I wouldn't say I adore every song, but the ones I don't particularly enjoy are fully supported by some amazing ones, and so the whole album then becomes easily listenable! An excellent second album - roll on the third!
Overall rating = 4/5
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Young Girls
2 Locked Out Of Heaven
6 When I Was Your Man
8 Show Me
9 Money Make Her Smile
10 If I Knew