Bruno Mars’ ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’: Review Revue

Carl Williott | December 12, 2012 1:33 pm

Bruno Mars‘ sophomore album Unorthodox Jukebox has a pretty accurate title: it’s a mix-and-match of influences that found the singer confidently donning whichever style was required of each track. The record also served as a statement, serving to shed his family-friendly, fedora-wearing image for that of a sweaty sex hound. It’s a bold, fun album and it’s simultaneously more mature and more immature than his debut. Read on to see how the web reacted to it.

:: On the way to handing out a 4/5, we said the album “doesn’t find Mars dodging genre labels so much as it finds him temporarily smothering himself in one before switching off to another…the songs openly pillage Bruno’s influences, but are slick and carefree enough that they sound fresh.” Meanwhile, the lyrics “leave you with post-sex hair, wanting to take a cold shower.”

:: Rolling Stone was right with us, saying “From another performer, the bombast might be a deal-breaker, but from Mars – a master song-crafter and a nimble, soulful vocalist – it is the stuff of great pop…[This album] makes the competition sound sad and idea-starved by comparison.”

:: Pop Matters unloaded an 8/10, pointing out that Bruno grew up: “just as hooky as anything he’s ever done, and is sung and arranged just as perfectly as his earlier work. But it’s a much less cutesy and much more grown-up record.” Also, it’s worth noting that the site forever tainted “Moonshine” by pointing out its similarity to Don Johnson‘s laughable ’80s song “Heartbeat.”

:: Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, gushing: “[it] feels much truer to life for a 27-year-old millionaire who vacations in Vegas…He’s dropped the golden-boy bit, but at least he’s being honest. And his talent for crafting little pop perfections of all stripes is undeniable.”

:: Britain’s The Guardian had a more guarded reaction in its 3/5 review. On the plus side, the paper noted: “In the fraught, loud, ADD world of pop production, Mars’s songs…have three dimensions. Every element isn’t just yelling at you from the front.” However, the reviewer argued he was too overt with his influences: “it’s harder to see why anyone is a fan of his in particular, because Mars remains a cipher.”

:: Paste rated it a 7/10, arguing that “for all its ultra-catchy eclecticism, Unorthodox Jukebox really isn’t all that unorthodox—and when Mars plays it safe, he steps sideways…Mars still plays the sweetheart card well, but he’s proven himself way more interesting as a badass.”

:: Vibe called it a “schizophrenic sophomore album, a project threaded together by the singer’s own appropriation of his predecessors…Mostly, it’s just the 27-year-old revivalist playing dress up.” Sounds harsh, until they dish out this compliment: “Mars’ mighty pen completes 2012’s triumvirate of gifted male singer/songwriters, joining Miguel and Frank Ocean atop the writer’s block.”

:: Billboard felt the album “succeeds in mixing its safer stylistic choices with its relatively bold ideas…Even when Mars clumsily swings for the fences, the listener has to commend him for picking up the bat.”

:: All Music was roughest of all, calling the album a step back from his debut “in so many ways.” Specifically, the lyrics and “the queasy feeling that comes with even a cursory listen” to them. The reviewer argued that Bruno’s “opinion of the opposite sex seems to have taken a nosedive. Add in the song about taking cocaine and having a romantic evening so violent the cops are called (“Gorilla”) and it’s clear that the heart of the album is a cold, dark one.”

::  Perhaps NPR summed it up best: “Not everything on the new album is brilliant; in several tunes, the lyrics amount to generic sex talk…but even then, in the most X-rated moments, it’s clear that Mars has crazy potential…For now, he’s all over the road, and it’s a pretty fun ride.”

What did you think of Unorthodox Jukebox? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter.