I am not much of a Bruno Mars fan. He is an undeniably talented, versatile artist, and I won’t deny that his pop career has seen huge success. I have just never felt compelled by his music. But in 2014, he surprised me. “Uptown Funk” was unexpectedly groovy, and I couldn’t help getting hooked on its vocal bass line and slick horns. Now, two years later, it’s safe to say that “Uptown Funk” established the retro groundwork for Mars’ newest release, 24k Magic. This album is basically Bruno Mars as a walking throwback, blending pop, funk, and R&B with surprising taste.
Early on, 24k Magic introduces “Chunky”, a synth serenade to “the girls that pay their rent on time”, before changing the pace with “Versace on the Floor”. The latter is a sultry R&B slow-jam that belongs next to a crackling bedroom fireplace sometime in the ‘90s. Mars reincarnates James Brown in “Perm, while “Finesse” oozes with the cocky swagger that brought us “Uptown Funk”.
I would argue that this is his most redeeming album yet, although I likely only hold that opinion because of my soft spot for funk. 24k Magic is a trim, tight project, clocking in at just 33 minutes for 9 tracks. Mars more or less spends the whole time fixated on sex. The result is a mix of fun-sounding songs, but this leaves quite a bit of potential for some more inspired lyrics. I also have yet to be completely won over by his contemporary take on old-school funk, though his attempt is valiant nonetheless. That being said, I expect a handful of these songs to be in my rotation for a little longer. I have high hopes for this new-old direction for Bruno Mars, and I look forward to hearing some more throwbacks from him in the near future.
Watch “Chunky” performed on SNL:
Stream 24k Magic here.