Ever since we first heard doo-wop, mainstream pop artist Bruno Mars on B.o.B.’s breakout hit, “Nothin’ on You,” his career has steered in many different directions. Even before “Nothin’ on You,” Mars had written and co-written several hit songs, such as Flo Rida’s “Right Round” and Knaan’s “Wavin’ Flag.” After gaining recognition from collaborating with B.o.B. and Gym Class Heroes’ frontman Travis McCoy for “Billionaire,” he released Doo-Wops and Hooligans, which garnered mixed critical reviews, but was commercially successful and nominated for Grammy Album of the Year in 2011. His infectious, but overplayed hit tunes, “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade” won listeners over, as well as his awesome music video for “The Lazy Song.” Mars’ voice is considered to be the reason of his enormous success, as well as his musical influence of slow-jam reggae, mainstream rock, and pop. This year, Mars has actually improved very much on his potential as an aesthetic music artist with Unorthodox Jukebox. Though the album cover doesn’t prove to be much (a gorilla embracing an old jukebox) nor has attained as much reception with mainstream music listeners as Doo-Wops did, Mars has advanced into his own field, adding more depth into his magnificent voice and catchy instrumentals. Of course, Mars maintains similar themes in Unorthodox Jukebox, such as romance, fun, girls, and heartbreak (the quintessential topics of a pop artist like Mars). The first track, “Young Girls,” is a surprising and attention-grabbing ballad that actually assists Mars’ tenor and helps deepen the genre of melancholic pop. Mars’ second track and hit single, “Locked Out of Heaven,” is another fun and pleasant jingle that may not surpass the catchiness that “Grenade” or “Just the Way You Are” had, but it does overcome the annoying conformity of mainstream pop. “Gorilla” is a electronic-inspired rock song that almost sounds like a chiller version of Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” or a modern pop form of AC/DC. “Treasure” is almost a 70s disco inspired tune that almost transforms Mars into a jazz hip hop artist of soul, a very unique and distinctive side of Mars we haven’t seen yet. The rest of the improved Unorthodox Jukebox is a variety of both beautiful and disappointing music: The bland, 80s rock-inspired “Moonshine” doesn’t really shine at all, making it one of the weakest of Mars’ follow-up; the piano-driven “When I Was Your Man” definitely feels familiar to other slow pop jams, but, again, Mars’ incredible vocals doesn’t disappoint; the foot-stomping, tuneful “Natalie” almost feels like it should be sung in a joyous church choir; the relaxed, reggae jingle, “Show Me,” again emphasizes the unique musical styles of Bruno Mars; “Money Make Her Smile” is another disappointing addition to Unorthodox Jukebox, offering an annoying and confusing mixture of electronic, soul, and rock; and the album closer, “If I Knew,” is a 60s-inspired slow, bluesy tune, where Mars croons and swoons with the electric guitar strumming. It’s not the greatest ending to Mars’ second album, but it’s nevertheless effervescent in every way.
Surprisingly, Bruno Mars has returned to recording music with an enthusiastic spirit, a never-disappointing singing voice, and a variation of musical influences from different eras, ranging from the 60s to today’s modern music. Unorthodox Jukebox is, without a doubt, an improvement from Bruno’s mediocre debut Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Bruno Mars is as lively as ever and his lyrics aren’t as unusually catchy and unpleasant at the same time (as “Grenade”‘s message about “catching a grenade” for a girl conveyed that it would be the ultimate sacrifice to win a girl over). Thankfully, Bruno Mars has returned, in an even more evolved form of himself.