Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Bruno Mars “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

A respected producer and writer before his name was remotely mentioned in the same vein as a solo artist, Bruno Mars is the talk of pop music right now, but he very well might not be the man he appears to be. Catching the ears of many with his appearances on B.o.B.‘s “Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” (both of which he also co-wrote), Mars (born Peter Hernandez) and his production team (the Smeezingtons) were also part of the crew responsible for Cee-Lo‘s recent viral hit, “Fuck You.” Don’t be fooled: Despite certain recent lapses in judgement, behind those dimples is a calculated hit-making machine, and Doo-Wops & Hooligans may potentially stand as the most brilliantly formulated album of the year. Not in the sense that it’s innovative—actually, innovative is one of the least accurate ways of describing the record—but in that Mars approaches each of the record’s 10 songs with an audience and a plan in mind, and he conquers. When speaking with Idolator late last month, Mars broke this plan down into a pair of simple sentences, “On this album, I have records that women are going to relate to and men are going to relate to. So doo-wops are for the girls, and hooligans are for the guys.” Innocent enough, but when dissecting his songs with the premeditated blueprints in mind, Doo-Wops & Hooligans begins to expose itself as something far more revealing than its generic exterior suggests it to be.

Leading off with “Grenade,” Mars immediately attacks his first target: the girls. As a series of vague tribal drums builds momentum, heartache drips from Mars’ lips as he proceeds through his lyrics, each of his verses painting himself as the heartbroken victim of romance, “I would go through all this pain/Take a bullet straight through my brain/Yes, I would die for ya baby; but you won’t do the same.” Admittedly he does toss in a charming one-liner to keep the song from becoming entirely stale, “Black and blue, beat me till I’m numb/Tell the devil I said ‘hey’ when you get back to where you’re from.” Mars’ chart-topping single “Just The Way You Are” follows, maintaining an unassuming stance throughout the song—it’s neither flashy nor imposing—it is with this track that his plan really begins to take form, “Oh you know I’d never ask you to change/If perfect’s what you’re searchin’ for then just stay the same.” See what he did there: He just hit on every girl alive.

“Our First Time” shows flashes of seductive vocals, the (church) bells in “Marry You” accompany the aforementioned doo-wop Mars was aiming for (“Is it that look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice/Who cares baby: I think I wanna marry you”), and “Talking to the Moon” paints a densely layered backdrop which is unmatched throughout the record. Both “The Lazy Song” and “Count on Me” reach into Jack Johnson’s catalog for inspiration (or maybe it’s just that both he and Mars are Hawaiian and they happen to think alike), each song relaxed as they sway through what are some of Mars’ worst lyrics (“Loungin’ on my couch just chillin’ in my Snuggie/Click to MTV so they can teach me to Dougie”) but they still somehow fail to shake his effortless sense of attractiveness. To say that Bruno Mars has created some songs here that women are going to relate to would be a ridiculous understatement.

But what about the guys? The funny thing is, the guys are an afterthought in this equation—as they should be; at least heterosexual guys. Because the bulk of Mars’ approach to the record is aimed so heavily at women, the assumption is that they’re the primary target: But the funny thing about guys is, some of them tend to like women, which means there’s a good chance they might be around when women are listening to the album. So what is one to do, as a guy, when the woman you’re interested in is swooning over Doo-Wops & Hooligans and you have to join in the experience of soaking up every last note of the record? That’s where part two of Mars’ plan takes action.

The “hooligans” songs that Mars referred to are still for the ladies, but they’ve got a bit of a punch to them (more like a tender shove, if we’re being real here) that acts in contrast with the rest of the record. “Runaway Baby” has a genuine flare and enthusiastic kick compared to the more romantic tracks, and it even has a dick joke (see: for the guys), “Even though they eatin’ out the palm of my hand/There’s only one carrot and they all gotta share it.” “Liquor Store Blues,” while saturated with inoffensive dub, is a song about drowning your sorrows which happens to feature a solid cameo from Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley—it should be mentioned that it’s really hard to pull the bullshit card and call the track faux-reggae when “Jr. Gong” is involved. The album wraps up with its most hooligan-y song: “The Other Side,” which features both Cee-Lo and B.o.B. and is easily the highlight of the album.

So there it is, Bruno Mars’ master plan: a) seduce the ladies, b) get the guys to bite, c) success. All kidding aside though, Doo-Wops & Hooligans is so tailor-made to blend in seamlessly with modern radio (Where we play all of today’s biggest pop, rock and country hits!) that it does Mars a serious disservice. Later in that same interview he reflected on a lesson he picked up during his time spent with Cee-Lo, “Cee-Lo proved without trying to teach me that basically you gotta do what you want for you to keep your sanity. You gotta say what you want to say, dress how you want… individuality.” Barely in his mid-20′s Bruno Mars is a phenomenally talented person who has become one of the most sought-after names in the entire industry, and, as suggested with “Fuck You,” he has a lot of charm and wit that’s just waiting to be heard. But if this album is what he calls a product of “individuality,” Bruno Mars also has a long way to go before he begins to remotely understand the world around him and what the word individuality really means.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]