Review: Bruno Mars’ ‘Doo-Wops & Hooligans’

Oct. 15, 2010, 12:34 a.m.

Review: Bruno Mars' 'Doo-Wops & Hooligans'

Review: Bruno Mars' 'Doo-Wops & Hooligans'
(Courtesy of Bruno Mars)

His work has been all over the radio for the past three years – the annoying-but-catchy party favorite “Right Round,” which he co-wrote with Flo Rida, the mellow, hopeful jam “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy and the blast-through-your-car-speakers summertime hit “Nothing on You” by B.o.B. With the release of his first studio album, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” crooner Bruno Mars cements his rising stardom.

Mars, a premier songwriter in the music industry, finally brings his talent to his own music with “Doo-Wops & Hooligans.” One of three executive producers of the album, Mars – along with the two remaining members of his production and songwriting trio, titled The Smeezingtons – manages to create an album that marks a foray into multiple styles of music. The album is typified by the diverse range of artists Mars cites as influences, including Prince, Tupac and Elvis Presley.

True to its name, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” deviates from the generic pop album and instead explores a smooth, soulful perspective on modern music. The album starts strong with two of its best songs up front – beginning with the heavy, thumping ballad “Grenade,” which laments a failing romance. The track is followed by the ubiquitous summer hit “Just the Way You Are,” a spontaneous love song à la Taylor Swift with enough romance to make any girl swoon, but a catchy beat and relatable theme to attract a male audience as well.

The album continues on to explore a few different musical approaches. Bruno Mars, born Peter Gene Hernandez, was raised by his Puerto Rican and Filipino parents and spent his entire adolescence in Hawaii, a background which lends an obvious influence to the album. Tracks such as “The Lazy Song” – a sunny, carefree tune documenting the ideal leisurely day – and the reggae-influenced “Liquor Store Blues,” featuring Damian Marley (son of Bob Marley) on vocals, provide a successful mix of a strong island feel and a laid-back California vibe that typified Mars’ childhood.

At the same time, Mars brings an underlying sensuality to “Doo-Wops & Hooligans.” Most obviously following this trend is the R&B-influenced third track, “Our First Time,” which includes lyrics such as “Don’t it feel good, babe?” A similar song comes in the form of “Talking to the Moon,” the most piano-heavy, romantic track in the album, in which Mars serenades an unknown woman while stargazing.

Mars saves his best for last in the album. The 10th track, “The Other Side,” featuring Cee Lo Green and B.o.B., represents a more philosophical approach to lyricism (“You could die if you wanted, but baby, what for?”) and brings a satisfying fusion of a rock and synth-dominated pop style with a soulful 60s retro influence – although that last bit could be solely because of Cee Lo Green’s singing voice.

Despite a coherent theme, Mars misses the mark in a few spots. “Count on Me” comes across as nothing more than an extremely kitschy ode to friendship, and the sixth track, “Marry Me,” is clichéd enough to include bell chimes in the chorus, falling flat as Mars paradoxically croons, “If we wake up and you want to break up, that’s cool.”

But, as a whole, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” is a successful album that satisfies pop listeners looking for music a bit more refined than bass-thumping club songs. Mars manages to walk the tightrope between conforming to a style and over-experimenting while showcasing his immense talent as both a formidable vocalist and a (generally) meaningful lyricist.

Login or create an account