Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox: An eclectic second album

Jon OBrien
7 December 2012
Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox: An eclectic second album
Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox album

After conquering both sides of the Atlantic with a string of soul-pop chart-toppers, Bruno Mars wrong-footed everyone when he returned with a slice of old-school new wave which suggested he'd now taken on the role of a Sting and The Police tribute act.

The derivative but groove-laden 'Locked Out Of Heaven' isn't the only pastiche on his aptly-titled second studio album, 'Unorthodox Jukebox.' 'Show Me' sees him venture onto the shores of Jamaica with a reggae-by-numbers array of steel drums and skank drops. 'Treasure' throws a nod to his recent SNL Michael Jackson impersonation with its 'Off The Wall'-inspired disco-pop sound. Whilst the suggestive Prince-esque funk verses of 'Gorilla' soon make way for a bombastic hair-metal chorus that appears to have been beamed in from The Las Vegas Strip circa 1988.

With an eclectic behind-the-scenes team including Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt, brass-pop extraordinaire Mark Ronson and man-of-the-moment Diplo joining his own production crew, The Smeezingtons, it's perhaps unsurprising that the follow-up to 2010's 'Doo-Wop & Hooligans' is so much more diverse.

But the curveballs don't always pay off. Despite his arrest for cocaine possession, Mars is still pretty much perceived as the kind of wholesome crooner you can take home to your parents, which is why it's hard to take his murderous intent on the ghostly jazz-pop of 'Natalie' too seriously, likewise 'Money Maker Her Smile,' a sleazy R&B number which takes a pot-shot at strip-club gold diggers.

Ultimately Mars sounds more comfortable when he reverts back to his usual tales of heartbreak, particularly on opener 'Young Girls,' an obvious future single which contains just as much melodrama as 'Grenade,' and the soulful 'one that got away' balladry of 'When I Was Your Man.'

'Unorthodox Jukebox,' therefore, isn't quite the 'all killer no filler' record it desperately wants to be. But with a good half a dozen potential hits on offer, Mars' continuous presence on the charts seems assured.

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