Coming off of his extremely successful collaboration with Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk, it was obvious Bruno Mars would continue his career in a funk-oriented direction. But on his latest effort, 24K Magic, Mars overloads his audience with funk and R&B, turning a vibrant experience into one of the most repetitive and dull efforts of the year.
Bruno Mars broke into the mainstream after the success of his debut solo album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, a project that featured Mars’ throwback pop style. Ever since, he’s been riding high as a mega-star, and with his third album, he will likely continue his streak of financially successful albums, mastering his craft with old-school vibes but never straying from a typical pop formula.
Mars wears his influences on his sleeve — whether it’s James Brown, Michael Jackson or anyone in between. For someone listening purely for fun, this is a fantastic album. Beyond some monotonous lyrics, the project’s R&B/pop blend is some of the easiest music to stomach, especially considering how each instrument pops out to create such a vibrant atmosphere. That being said, this instrumentation isn’t exotic or complex. In fact, there’s almost nothing challenging on 24K Magic. Whether it’s the album’s title track or its surprisingly invigorating final song, “Too Good to Say Goodbye,” Mars delivers an abundance of infectious grooves and jams not unlike the ones that have dominated his last two albums, bringing much of the same to the table.
Embracing ‘80s synth funk head on, Mars and his new production team, Shampoo Press & Curl, fully embrace everything the scene has to offer, from its diverse instrumentation to sensual lyrics and even the electric and braggadocios visual style. The usual suspects are present in the production of 24K Magic, including Philip Lawrence, Mars himself and Brody Brown, bringing with them a reinvigorated yet familiar production style. This helps Mars and company create some of the most colorful music he’s ever put his name to.
Beyond the exciting and melodic moments, Mars himself drops the ball a bit lyrically. Mars’ music has a tendency to become repetitive after a few tracks, and 24K Magic’s nine songs are no exception. While playful jams such as “Chunky” are fun upon first listen, a second time around, they become incessantly dull, playing into every cliché of Mars’ new contemporary R&B sound.
The track’s lyrics certainly don’t help, which is the case with most of his songs. “Chunky” kicks off the trend, featuring some of the least poetic portrayals of flirting imaginable, as Mars sings, “Girl, you better have you hair weave strapped on tight / ‘Cause once we can go, where we rolling / We’ll cha-cha ‘til the morning.” During what is undisputedly the worst song on the record “Perm,” Mars hits a new low when he tells a girl, “You need activate your sexy.” Mars is clearly trying to reinvent himself as a fun-loving player, but he’s not convincing at all.
24K Magic was an album made for fans. Listeners who never enjoyed Mars’ music won’t find this LP any more attractive than his last. Each track can be fun, but after a few listens, it becomes apparent that only a few songs stand out, making 24K Magic a forgettable and non-essential listen. Unless you’re looking for formulaic pop, stick to the singles for this one.