Album review: Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox (Atlantic)

3.00

Sweet soul music as Bruno Mars the mimic finds his own voice

In today's talent-show-dominated entertainment world, no quality seems more highly prized than the ability to imitate.

Legions of the tone-deaf queue up to show how laughably they can ape Mariah Carey's melismatics; but bang out a show tune in a half-decent approximation of a cruise-ship siren, and the world will beat a path to your door: these are the poles upon which The X Factor's appeal is strung, and they poke malignantly into the rest of pop. So although Bruno Mars is a talented chap, he's forced to demean his abilities by echoing other artists' former glories on Unorthodox Jukebox, whose title all but gives the game away.

Most of the echoes thrown off by these 10 tracks understandably bring to mind Michael Jackson: the gold-diggers of "Money Make Her Smile" and "Natalie" are clearly cousins of "Dirty Diana" and "Billie Jean", their shortcomings squawked breathlessly over insipid synth-pop.

But elsewhere other Eighties ghosts haunt the album. Bruno demonstrates a keen appreciation of Patrice Rushen's funk-pop on "Treasure"; a talent for McCartney-esque piano balladry on "When I Was Your Man"; and most glaringly of all on the single "Locked out of Heaven", a command of The Police's limber R&B pop style. Only the veneer of 21st-century sexuality pasted over the song saves it from tribute-band homage.

Which is not to say that there aren't more pleasingly individual tracks among the 10: Bruno's impassioned shame at dumbly trying to impress "these bright-eyed honeys" is carried by methodical string and wind quadruplets and floppy, Spector-esque tom-toms on the enjoyable "Young Girls", while his daring admission of unbridled sensuality in "Gorilla" is keenly swathed by Diplo's deep swirl of synths and big beats. And the gentle reggae skank of "Show Me", rooted in his native Hawaiian influence, finds Mars's voice ideally suited to cool-ruler-style crooning.

But it's the closing dip into deep-soul pleading on "If I Knew" that assures the brightness of his future: for once, it's just a style, not a specific copy of another artist, and it allows Bruno the space to express his own sweet character.

Download: Young Girls; Locked out of Heaven; Gorilla; If I Knew

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy