By Drew Lacouture
On his newest full-length album, Bruno Mars increases his stature as a pop icon with more confidence, inspiration and funk than ever before. The talented song-writer/performer mixes influences from previous decades and his pop sensibilities to create a passionate, yet fun listen.
While “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” and “Unorthodox Jukebox” were massive commercial successes, they did not contain enough distinctive qualities to insert them to many yearend lists. “24K Magic” is not a masterpiece, but in comparison there is much more focus and replay value in these songs.
Mars has always presented himself as a love-seeking heartthrob first and a womanizer second, but on this album it is reversed. He is having the time of his life with women, money and luxury. The only sappy song on here is the closing ballad “Too Good to Say Goodbye,” and it reminds listeners why everyone loves this womanizing version of Mars instead.
This new image is presented best in the fantastic opener “24K Magic,” followed by its even better follow-up, “Chunky.” It improves on its predecessor with a more distinctive base line and sensual backing vocals. Both these tracks have the soul and spark that “Uptown Funk” was missing.
It does not end here, for James Brown would be proud of the song “Perm” and every R&B singer from the 1990s will be jealous they did not create the song “Finesse.” The same might not be said for “Versace on the Floor,” which radiates so much cheese from that decade that it is hard to take it seriously at first.
A similar song to “Versace on the Floor” in tone and nostalgia is “Calling All of My Lovelies,” which has a strong 1980s feeling with its gorgeous synth lines and ballad tempo. Mars himself has never sounded more convincing and dynamic himself. Most of those who are skeptical of him will find excitement in this track and “Chunky” without question.
“That’s What I Like” and “Straight Up & Down,” are mid-tier tracks. The trap-flavored drums on “That’s What I Like” do not match the rest of the track but it is saved with several pleasant surprises in the transitions and a sweet bridge. “Straight Up & Down” is meant to be a love-making song, and has the production for it, but it is unclear if it succeeds in that with its awkward chants in the chorus.
On a side note, it is a shame that Mars continues to charge full price for a nine track album. His albums are too short, and it is especially disappointing in this case because it is his best work yet. The man has the potential to be on the level of Justin Timberlake in terms of quality music, but nine songs an album is not going to prove much.
“24K Magic” is not pushing pop music forward in a remarkable way with its crystal clear influences and flaws, but Bruno Mars is surely distinguishing himself from his contemporaries. He has not unleashed his full potential as an entertainer due to some questionable decisions. With that said, he is improving his craft with each release, which alone deserves praise.
The Flyer gives “24K Magic” a 7/10.