Bruno Mars borrowed heavily from the past when it comes to “That’s What I Like,” but in pop music, everything that was once discarded as old becomes new again, and the singer-songwriter has become an expert at finding inspiration what those before him succeeded with. While it might not be the most interesting single on his album 24k Magic, it was the only No. 1. It’s perfectly acceptable, but he doesn’t say much in it, and it’s unlikely to stand the test of time as one of his greatest.
It was certainly fun to hear Mars incorporate a bit of rock into his lead Unorthodox Jukebox single...but did he have to essentially steal from The Police? Mars and his team are so clever, it’s a shame they had to keep things so literal when it comes to their idea of a throwback, but at least the song ended up being enough fun to almost shrug it all off and dance.
The song that officially kicked off Mars’ career as a pop star in his own right, B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ On You” was also a great introduction for the hip-hop musician, and the single was powerful enough to turn both artists into household names. While one of these two musicians has all but fallen off the face of the Earth (which he believes is flat, by the way), the other used this as a springboard to become one of the most successful pop stars of a generation, and his first smash will always have a special place in so many hearts.
It’s nearly impossible to make it to No. 1 with nothing more than a piano and a voice, but Bruno Mars is one of the few artists to manage it. In fact, “When I Was Your Man” was just the second song of its kind to rise all the way, following Adele’s “Someone Like You,” which did so a short time before Mars came along with his heartbreaking tale. Is this a true love song? One that focuses solely on loss? It’s difficult to say, but the songwriting is unbeatable, and due to its simple production, the track is timeless.
The drama provided by “Grenade” is one not often experienced in Mars’ songs, which is a shame, because clearly, he can pull it off. The idea of actually catching a grenade or stepping in front of a train for the one you love might be a bit over the top, but his powerful vocal performance and the top-notch production make this all come together, and Mars not only gets away with, but totally kills (not dies for) this composition.
Most artists who toe the line between Top 40 and adult contemporary domination dream of a song like “Just The Way You Are,” and Mars has now written a handful that fit into this category, both in terms of sentiment and success. His first No. 1 hit on his own, the cut that turned him from a featured guest into a frontman who could power a smash without anyone’s help is the kind of syrupy-sweet love song that will be played at every basic wedding for decades to come, and while it’s easy to poke fun at, its general appeal is undeniable.
There is plenty to be said about how Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars lifted the music and the rhythm that makes “Uptown Funk” so goddamn catchy from some of the greatest and most influential funk artists of all-time (and those claims are almost all correct according to the copyright credits, by the way), but the questionable circumstances by which a tune is created don’t necessarily diminish the final product’s likeability or success.
“Uptown Funk” is a jam, no matter how you spin it, and it will go down as one of the biggest hits ever recorded. Everybody and their mother (especially their mother, actually) loves this one, and there is no situation it doesn’t work in. It’s a blockbuster in every sense of the word, and it deserves everything it has coming to it...including just a bit of criticism.
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