Tuesday 11 December 2012

Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox

This second album from Bruno Mars certainly seems unorthodox in comparison to his debut.  Graduating from the soppy, puppy dog love songs of ‘Doo-Wops & Hooligans’ where Mars obsessively adored women “just the way you are”, ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ sees Mars reaching sexual awakening with a collection of songs that owe more than a passing debt to Michael Jackson.

Lead single Locked Out Of Heaven proves to be the perfect introduction to the new style.  Repeating “your sex takes me to paradise” like a mantra over a ska-funk guitar line copied from Sting provides a blueprint for the album at large, merging overt sexuality with 80s production.  Yet this track is amongst only a handful of upbeat tracks, along with the Stevie Wonder-esque funky Treasure that sounds like an extra track from Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ (despite opening with the line “Baby squirrel, you’s a sexy motherfucker”), and reggae track Show Me that’s indebted to Musical Youth’s Pass the Dutchie, lending an exotic feel to match the lyric “your pleasure island is where we can go”.  Somehow Mars is cool enough to get away with some incredibly sleazy lines.

The rest of the album is surprisingly downbeat, with a number of power ballads that continue where Grenade left off.  Vocally, Mars’s high tenor fluctuates from tenderly sweet to sexy rasp (thankfully more of the latter) in a clear imitation of Michael Jackson.  Likewise, the production combines 80s rock and RnB flavours to mimic ‘Bad’.  Gorilla, for example, brings evocative synths and guitars to the lyric “you and me baby making love like gorillas”.  How does one make love like a gorilla?  “You got your legs up in the sky with the devil in your eyes”, “you’ll be banging on my chest bang bang” and “you’re screaming give it to me baby, give it to me motherfucker”.  Nobody expects gorillas to make love delicately, but I’m sure David Attenborough would have a thing or two to say about that.  Moonshine is similarly erotic: “the moment that you kiss my lips you know I start to feel wonderful…there’s sex in your chemicals”.  Yet sex has its dangers beyond chemical burns – on Natalie “Little Miss Sunshine ruined my life…she ran away with all my money”, confirmed by Money Make Her Smile (“give her what ya got, give her what you got yeah”).  In this respect, Natalie is like Mars’s Dirty Diana, with production more akin to Kanye West, whilst Money Make Her Smile features a Stronger­-esque synth melody in the pre-chorus.  Amongst all the seductive, nocturnal whizz-bang, there’s still room for some slush in the form of piano-ballad When I Was Your Man, but even this is a lament to a failed relationship – “now my baby is dancing, but she’s dancing with another man”.

Like his debut, ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ is rather melodramatic in the lyrics (and trouser) department, but musically this is a far cooler album that should appeal to more than just teenage girls.  Just stay clear of any gorillas if I were you.


Gizzle’s Choice:
* Gorilla
* Treasure
* Moonshine  

Listen: ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ is available now.