Bruno Mars, or Peter Gene Hernandez, who is known for his vocals and co-writing the hooks for the songs "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B, and "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy, as well as his own international number-one single "Just the Way You Are", has just released his debut album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans.
I heard his voice for the first time on "Billionaire" and was intrigued by its smoothness and effortlessness to hit the high notes. In some ways, his voice reminded me of Justin Nozuka's but with more of a soul flair. I was very curious to see what his own album would be like as I was only familiar with his music as a vocal accent to other artists' songs.
So without further ado, let's break down the album, track by track. Just as a FYI, when I listen to music, I tend to focus on the music part of the song (melody, harmony, riffs, beat, vocals) first as I was classically trained for a very long time, and then move onto the lyrical content of the song. So, I'll rate each song from a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being an atrocious song that never should have been written, to 5 being an absolute master piece that I plan on having on my ipod playlist for years to come.
1. Grenade - This song draws you in immediately with Bruno's angst laden vocals singing over a single piano riff, which is then really amped up with a more upbeat and heavy tom toms laden drum track. It definitely had my head bobbing to the beat as Bruno really digs deep when singing the chorus with some grit laced in his delivery and then is countered with some tender high notes/falsetto near the end. The song's lyrics harps hyperbolically about experiencing the effects of unequal levels of effort in a relationship, likening his love/effort to jumping on a grenade for his love interest, whereas she is unwilling to do so for him.
Overall score: 4. This song makes me want to go find a guitar tab of this song and jam to it on my own.
2. Just The Way You Are - On a first listen, the melody sounds like an upbeat version of an Alicia Keys song, "No One". It could easily be mashed up together with that song, especially with the piano melody in the background. This song clearly sticks out as a single and indeed it is (international #1 single). As a fellow songwriter, I really appreciate how he changes up the rhythmic feel of the song by putting different beats for the verses, chorus, and bridge as it really lets the listener know where you are in the song. The whole song just soars in its melody, feel, and lyrics as Bruno sings about how his girl is amazing just the way she is, and that she need not worry.
Overall score: 5. It's an ultimate feel good song that you could play on a Sunday morning with the top down in a convertible, the sun shining down on the Pacific Coast Hwy with no traffic whatsoever, just you, your significant other, and the open road with an ocean view. Just perfect.
3. Our First Time - This is the required RnB sex/booty call/slow jam song on the album. It has that bass heavy beat and rhythm that lends to a grooving pace of bump and grind on the dance floor or in the bedroom. Bruno is laying it on thick heavy with lyrics about calming a girl's nerves about their first time together, that he'll take it nice and slow. In fact, it kind of reminds me of Usher's Nice and Slow with a bit more uptempo feel to it.
Overall score: 3. It's a nice song but rather monotonous at times. Although, if you're getting your groove on with this song, you're probably not really listening that carefully now, are you?
4. Runaway Baby - Bruno flips the script completely here, with a rock and roll vibe with a lead guitar riff blasting away with a chorus that really makes you feel like you're running somewhere at a frenetic pace. You see a much more machismo and moxie laden side of the artist in the lyrics and delivery in this song. It's very catchy and the lyrics are just full of spunk, warning the girl that he's a bad boy and that if she doesn't run away, he'll put a spell on her.
Overall score: 4. Lots of fun to be had with this one with all the different instruments and backing vocals playing off of each other. But it's a very short track, with only 2:30 of play time.
5. The Lazy Song - This song just really hits home with me, whenever I'm at work. "Today I don't feel like doing anything. I just want to lay in my bed." That's all you need to know about this song. A very lazy groove that reminds me of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" and some very comical lyrics, "wearing my snuggie, teach me how to dougie" make it a good song to put on while popping open a Corona on the beach.
Overall score: 4. A very clever and fun song to just jam to. It's making me feel better while listening to this at a cube at work.
6. Marry You - The thing that jumps out at me is how similar the hook sounds just like the song, 'What's going on?' from the 90s. However, this song confuses me. Is it a joke? Or is it supposed to be uber romantic. I mean, if you were a girl, would you say yes to a marriage proposal because 'its a beautiful night and we're looking for something DUMB to do, hey baby, i think i want to marry you.' ? It clearly has to be a joke upon listening to the rest of the song, as it makes it sound like something done in the movie Hangover, a drunken spontaneous wedding in Vegas.
Overall score: 2. Bonus points to the couple that plays this song at their wedding for their wicked sense of humor. However, it just didn't make any sense to have this song on this album, at least to me, unless he's trying to show all the different perspectives on love, this being the sardonic but comical view.
7. Talking to the Moon - Bruno switches moods again in a bi polar fashion, going from dark humor to utter melancholy singing with piano about someone, somewhere far away that he has lost. It's a classic melancholy song that could be played in a music video with a film montage from some tv show like Smallville or One Tree Hill showing a couple in love, heartbreak, and separation. So many of those on youtube these days. This song would be a good one to choose for Twilight or something to that effect.
Overall score: 3. This song was a bit too maudlin for me to really like. It had a good melody and power to it, but it didn't move me as much as it was meant to.
8. Liquor Store Blues - Get your reggae on! The groove is just awesome on this song, I'm not only bobbing my head but also moving my entire body to the sweet riddims of the Bruno mon! "One shot for my pain, one drag for my sorrow". It's a sad song but I just love the earnestness and brutal honesty in the lyrics and vocal delivery displayed in this song.
Overall score: 5. I'm not a HUGE reggae fan, but I love this song especially with the collaboration of Damian Marley's talents.
9. Count on Me - This song would be a great song on Sesame St. Lots of counting going on and talking about being a good friend. I like how the song is very simple with acoustic guitar, Bruno's harmonizing vocals, and a layer of strings (violins and cellos) to complete the sound with bongos.
Overall score: 3. It's a very nice simple song that I would love to hear at a bookstore or coffee shop, but it doesn't really do much more than that.
10. The Other Side - I think this song reminds me of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". Oh and lookie here! Cee Lo from Gnarls Barkley is a guest performer on the song. It has a "Thriller" like beginning and the melody is definitely more complex than the other songs on this album. Even the subject matter is a bit more sophisticated in this song and Cee Lo's spitfire of lyrics is just blazing and the beats during the bridge really helps to keep the track fresh and give it a sweeping, epic feel.
Overall score: 5. This is a gem. I'm planning on listening to this one repeatedly.
Overall, this album is pretty solid for a debut album in my opinion. Bruno gets to show off his vocal talent and his production skills while collaborating with some heavy hitters like Damian Marley and Cee Lo Green.