By Jared Sokoloff
I wasn’t a fan of Bruno Mars before I played his sophomore release, “Unorthodox Jukebox.” Thirty-five minutes later, after being hit by a barrage of quality songs, I was converted.
The album was mainly written by Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine, the composition and production team known as The Smeezingtons. They are the men who brought us such hits as “Billionaire,” “F*ck You,” “Young and Wild and Free” and Mars’ full debut album.
Each song on “Unorthodox Jukebox” is expertly written, relying on sturdy melodies and catchy hooks. The lyrics deal with common themes of love while refraining from sounding tired and cliché.
The album is a crash course in popular music of the past fifty years. The funky “Treasure” is straight out of the late 1970s, with a stunningly groovy interplay of guitar, bass and drums underlying a raspy Rod Stewart-esque vocal performance. “Show Me” has Mars doing his best reggae impression over a modernized steel drum riff.
The album’s hit single, “Locked out of Heaven,” mirrors what The Police would sound like in modern times and incorporates modern electronic influences. “Moonshine” is a long-lost ‘80s power ballad, and “If I Knew” is a sweet doo-wop slow dance.
Lush vocal harmonies, not often used in modern pop music, are beautifully integrated throughout the entire album. However, in spite of its quality, the album is not cutting-edge. Mars doesn’t push genre boundaries — he merely repackages them for a new generation.
This album solidifies the fact that The Smeezingtons are on their way to becoming true masters of pop music. They have Paul McCartney’s knack for writing a catchy song, albeit without the innovation Sir Paul was able to bring to his craft.