Love him or hate him – and we wager the numbers on both sides are pretty balanced – you can’t fault Bruno Mars for trying. Like some sort of insidious vermin he crawls into every household (fair, given he’s about the same size as one), flexing some bygone funk to appeal to both the Uptown set and the ones who think he’s the reincarnation of their Motown faves.
24K Magic starts as Uptown Funk finished then, with a title track that’s all shiny with clicks and pep and basically vomits out a series of old tropes in that eponymous shiny gold. Chunky does nothing to allay the image that Bruno Mars’s preferred method of travel is probably to slide everywhere, his tracks laid down with Brylcreem in some sort of misguided sense of cheesy cool.
Funnily enough he carries on that vibe with Perm, which honestly feels like it’s one step away from being a LMFAO workout video. What Mars is trying to do is so obvious that it ends up being horrendously broad; like an ethnic Meghan Trainor his strokes are so all-encompassing that you can imagine this being the go-to for kids’ birthday parties.
And through all the simple cadences (That’s What I Like) and the nursery rhymes (Straight Up And Down) and the over-exerted come-hither nonsense (Versace On The Floor), it’s clear that Bruno Mars is certainly living in a 24K bubble of his own creation and very blatantly knows how to pander to his audience. For the rest of us, he’s got all the furniture in place but the magic itself is lost (except for the full-on charm of Finesse), like the arrogant nouveau-riche upstart he’s fronting as on the sleevem hoarding items that work individually but come together with all the subtlety of Liberace. If he doesn’t dial it down a notch then that’s exactly who he’ll be the contemporary equivalent of, rather than the MJ he so aspires to be.