Pop crooner Bruno Mars (Peter Hernandez) is back this November with his third studio album, 24K Magic (Nov. 18), off Atlantic Records. The “Just The Way You Are” singer and multi-instrumentalist tries a few new things in the project as its genre-mixing value is high, and his vocals handle the LP’s different styles well, but since it’s a major press-making release for the pop culture icon, the review of it needs to be performed properly and with diligence.
The first and title track is the smash hit of the album no doubt. Its booming flashy synth beat and the talk-boxing, pristinely finished, plus Mars’ smacking vocal delivery make for some real livewire funk but Mars also steps out on a high wire lyrically. He’s a wild vacationing spendthrift, inspiriting the “players” and the “pimp” in him to “spend money like money ain’t sh*t” and engage in other like frivolities. In what could have been an innocent party song, those stereotypical overtones make it unconstructive to absorb, maybe even harmful to kids, but as long as one can tell the difference between the good and bad aspects, it’s probably ok to take in.
Of course, Bruno Mars’ character is the hip, love-crazed, bohemian heartthrob that launched him to superstardom six years ago, and it’s reflected here in his quest for fine fly chickadees in “Chunky,” his aiming to please them in “That’s What I Like” and him heating it up with his miss in “Versace on the Floor.” “That’s What I Like” is a really curious case in particular. Bruno Mars unabashedly exclaims, “you got it if you want it” and even “take my wallet if you want it,” as if he embraces the fact that the chances of him succeeding with his gal rely heavily on how many monetary perks he can shower on her. Yes, this unfortunately goes on far too often in the real world, and yes, good women do deserve many blessings but sorry Bruno, it’s neither smart nor cool to put your financial safety net at risk like that.
So again, we have several lyrics that are potentially damaging but only if the listener is not pre-informed of what could influence him or her negatively. Later in, the coin flips over and Mars experiences some rejection in “Calling All My Lovelies” and tries to mend a bond that is broken in “Too Good To Say Goodbye,” but the flaw in the second at least is that he tries and tries and tries to make things all peachy in his love-life, but metaphorically it’s like trying to treat a dreadfully sick elderly person to where they’re good as new – it’s virtually impossible to accomplish and he might be wasting his time in the process.
Obviously then, 24K Magic is both good and bad. Its state-of-the-art sound quality and fine producing make for some good pop, soul and funk fun (sometimes of a throwback ’80s character), and Bruno Mars is pleasantly on-key, charismatic and somewhat versatile with his cords and chops. He’s even taken some creative measures, like mirroring one of the greats before him. Mars does a pretty good James Brown in “Perm,” sounding off just like the original Godfather of Soul himself, yet it could also be seen as copycatting the legend.
The most important bit to draw from a good, sound analysis of the album is that some of Mars’ character traits just should not be taken on by others. 24 Karat Magic may sound stunning on a surface level, but it’s designed that way so that the hazardous lyrics enter your mind easily and subtly so you don’t discover the tricks of Mars and the team at Atlantic. When you think about it, it’s really ridiculous. For example, why does Versace have to be involved in lovemaking and sex? The high end luxury brand has just been product-placed in the song without you even realizing it. This album is typical all around, and the music by itself is fine, but no one should put much weight in its words.