By Taylyn Washington-Harmon
Bruno Mars’ sophomore album ‘Unorthodox Jukebox,’ dropping Dec. 11, takes its audience on a blast through the past.
Peter Hernandez, better known as famed singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, made Unorthodox Jukebox truly his own — without any featured vocals. After his smash hit debut, Doo-Wops and Hooligans, Mars throws us some unexpected curves: 50s jukebox tunes, 60s Motown blues, 70s disco jams, and even a bit of 80s soft rock.
Mars doesn’t disappoint, with Unorthodox Jukebox, where he seems to have carved out multiple directions for himself as an artist. The album’s opening track, “Young Girls,” sounds like a fossil from the Happy Days jukebox with the classic bubblegum production unique to Mars. Lead single “Locked Out of Heaven” is heavily reminiscent of The Police, with new wave influences and a tinge of reggae.
Mars continues to experiment with Unorthodox Jukebox, echoing other artists. Phil Collins production-wise and Prince lyrically were quite evident as influences on “Gorilla,” as was Stevie Wonder on “Treasure,” and a pure Thriller-era Michael Jackson on “Moonshine,” a personal favorite of mine on the album. The track is complete to a T with a detail of a sample of the MJ classic “Beat It.” Mars’ vocals are golden and the production is pure perfection.
With guest producers like Benny Blanco on “Natalie” and Diplo on “Gorilla” and “Money Make Her Smile,” Mars doesn’t take his music too far into Retroville. But even with them I wouldn’t be surprised to find this treasure of an album among my granny’s record collection, filed somewhere between James Brown and the Jackson 5.
I give Unorthodox Jukebox 4/5 stars. I love where Bruno Mars is taking his music even if he may not have discovered it for himself yet. The retro influences appeal to every old soul and make even the most superficial of pop listeners want to brush up on some music history.