Bruno Mars only just released his debut album, but it’s likely you’ve heard his voice before, thanks to his well-known collaborations with Travie McCoy (“Billionaire”) and B.o.B (“Nothin’ On You”) that achieved popularity earlier this year. And, oh, what a voice! On his debut album, Mars sings with an effortless style that puts many singers to shame. Whether it be “Doo-Wops” (songs for the girls) or “Hooligans” (songs for the guys), Bruno does a great job of putting just the right vocal touch on each song.
Doo-Wops & Hooligans opens with “Grenade”, definitely one of the stronger tracks presented. An introspective piano part throughout the verses and a catchy chorus, combined with the strength of Bruno’s voice and lyrics not t00 unlike those of Mat Kearney‘s song “Bullet” (though with a comparison to the lack of similar feelings on the girl’s end), show off a few of this album’s best assets. The next song, “Just The Way You Are”, is the first single from the record, and the reasoning behind this is obvious almost instantly. It’s rare for a verse to be as catchy as its chorus, but that is the case in this song. This is a great love song, plain and simple.
Moving away from the upbeat nature of the first two tracks, “Our First Time” is a much more relaxed song with a smooth bass line and minimalist drums, allowing for Bruno’s vocal abilities to shine. Though his voice is certainly well-suited to the R&B style, this song ends up a bit forgettable. Perhaps that is the result of the strength of the tracks both prior to and following it, since “Runaway Baby” is nonstop fun. Somewhat reminiscent of Gnarls Barkley, this song is two and a half minutes of infectious, foot-tapping, head-bobbing pop.
“The Lazy Song” is exactly what the title would lead you to think it is. A syncopated guitar part and solid rhythm section give the song a laid-back feel and the lyrics, while in parts comically bad, make you feel like you’re just hanging out with Mars in his house. This is also in part due to the production on the track, which sometimes seems like the song is being performed spur-of-the-moment, helping to accomplish an intimately lazy sense.
Next is “Marry You”, one of my least-favorite tracks on the album. Changing from the laziness of the previous song to spontaneity, Mars sings about wanting to get married without any real thought. If the song had different lyrics, it would be much more enjoyable, since there is a great vocal performance and the instrumental parts sound good, with a driving bass line and a part played on bells that is quite fitting. Unfortunately, the lyrics detract away from the melodies and music so much that this song is almost difficult to listen to.
Luckily, the next track, while slower, helps to reaffirm Bruno’s abilities with a soulfulness and integrity that the previous song lacks. “Talking To The Moon” is a song centering on loneliness, with great piano parts and dynamic shifts that make it one of the best songs on the record. Featuring Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, “Liquor Store Blues” follows with reggae-soaked instrumentation. Though this is also one of my least favorite songs from Doo-Wops & Hooligans, a large portion of that stems from my personal distaste for reggae, so the track may be well-suited for others.
“Count On Me” is an intimate song, featuring an acoustic guitar, subtle strings, and bongos. The lyrics are, for lack of a better word, cute. While Mars says “friends” a few times throughout, it is difficult to shake the feeling that this song is intended for a special girl. There is little to dislike about this track, and it fits nicely in the order and flow of the album.
Speaking of Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo Green makes an appearance on final track “The Other Side”, alongside previous Mars collaborator B.o.B. This song features production that is easily the best on the album, with less reverb on Bruno’s vocals than most others. It’s a shame that this doesn’t happen until the final track, since it shows off his vocal prowess much more effectively and makes me wish that the rest of the songs were produced in a similar manner. The song has very good backing music and incredible vocal performances by all involved. Bruno works well with Cee Lo, and B.o.B’s verse might be my favorite rap part I’ve heard this year. With songs like these last two, the album certainly ends on a high note.
If you appreciate pop music and vocal talent, this is the album for you. Featuring a considerable amount of diversity for a ten-track release, Bruno Mars has the sort of voice that can be both soft and soaring, and these songs will be stuck in your head for days. While it focuses a bit more on the “Doo-Wops” than the “Hooligans” (as could be expected), there is little to dislike about this offering. If you’re going to check out one pop album this year, I’d definitely recommend this to be the one.