Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans

For the few who have seen 1992’s “Honeymoon in Vegas” — a daft romantic comedy starring third-rate Coppola Nicolas Cage and pre-“Sex” Sarah Jessica Parker — a certain croon may strike a chord in your well-trained ears. Amidst the legions of Elvis impersonators that breeze through the mostly forgettable movie, there is a sneak peek of six-year-old Bruno Mars — the man behind the hooks of this summer’s “Nothin’ On You” and “Billionaire,” as well as his own monster hit “Just the Way You Are.”

Get on YouTube and witness the phenomenon: Dressed like the King in a blue jumpsuit, baby-Mars sings “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,” all while flaunting Elvis’ signature hip-shake and snarl. Given this get-up, it’s hard to believe this kid would grow up to coin 2010’s biggest earworms (Or get arrested for cocaine possession in Las Vegas, of all places), but man… rocking a pompadour before he hit double digits, he’s already a freakin’ star.

If his terrifying childhood stage presence isn’t any indication, the Hawaiian native (with his production team the Smeezingtons) has been responsible for gems like Cee Lo Green’s Internet hit “Fuck You” and last year’s infectious “Right Round” by Flo Rida. On top of that, on his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Mars tries on every genre for size, proving he’s got the chops to be a versatile singer and songwriter.

Looking at Mars’ resumé, you’d expect a certain kind of album: hip-hop beats, smooth vocals, lots of soul. Those elements are certainly all there, but Mars goes big on his debut, giving every kind of sound at least a small share of the spotlight. There’s reggae in the Damian Marley collaboration “Liquor Store Blues,” Sade-like sex in the unsubtly titled “Our First Time” and Jason Mraz pluckiness in “The Lazy Song” — a track that dares to rhyme “snuggie” and “dougie,” a lyrical morsel that could be totally awesome, or as it turns out, awesomely bad.

As expected, some experiments work better than others. Mars’ forays into melodically sweet ballads are excruciating and melodramatic (namely “Talking to the Moon” and the droning first single “Just the Way You Are”). Yet when he stops raving about how wonderful his girlfriend is and mans up a bit, his smooth voice goes down a lot more easily.

So while the album is a bit hit-or-miss, by offering at least a little something for everyone, Doo-Wops & Hooligans makes for a perfect pop debut with plenty of room for development.

Check out Bruno Mars when he performs  at Price Center on Nov. 19.


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