IoS album review: Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox (Atlantic/Elektra)


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The Independent Culture

For a 21st-century pop megastar, Bruno Mars doesn’t half sound old-fashioned.

If you were to carbon-date the content of Unorthodox Jukebox unseen, you’d estimate it came from 1983. Whatever effect the runaway success of Doo-Wops and Hooligans may have had on the Hawaiian singer, it certainly hasn’t inspired him to take risks or throw himself into futurism. When he isn’t sounding like a Police album track (“Locked Out of Heaven”) or a Musical Youth album track (“Show Me”), he’s mostly sounding like a Wham! album track (the disco-pop “Treasure” being a case in point).

In the remorse-stricken ballad “When I Had the Chance”, Mars even has his own “Careless Whisper”. In fact, the only thing that gives the decade away is the 15-rated nature of lyrics such as “You’ll be screaming, ‘Give it to me, give it to me motherfucker’...”.

Timing is everything, of course, and the opening track “Young Girls” causes inadvertent queasiness in this now-then now-then climate. But it’s nothing next to the inadvertent comedy of a chorus which runs “You and me baby making love like gorillas”. That one has to be a single, if only to force Mars to make a video for it.