Verdict: 3 / 5
Pop’s most promising male artist stretches himself on his second studio album. Mars is talented and his music is not as formulaic as can be found in this washed up genre. ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ is as the title suggests, a mix bag of songs cross pollinating funk, reggae and pop.
The first tune, ‘Young Girls’ has inane, sentimental lyrics that focus on childish love escapades, the ill-treatment meted out by these girls is enough to make any guy heartbroken and pen a song in lament. It’s candy coated and Bruno’s love of doo wop is added ever so slightly. The smash hit ‘Locked out of Heaven’ may have been locked on your local radio station’s playlist but even after so many listens it sounds fresh within the album context.
‘Gorilla’ is dramatic, rockish and reminiscent of ‘The Beautiful Ones’ by Prince. Mars brings the funk on ‘Treasure’, a pleasant song that deliberately copies funky pop songs from the eighties. ‘Moonshine’ starts with a smooth and stark guitar arpeggio then expands to evoke the Police but with a pinch of soul to differentiate it. The piano ballad ‘When I was your Man’ is well sung and shows up Mars’ keen ear for melody. Things get bogged down when ‘Natalie’ comes around. It has a stomping beat, almost like Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’, but it lacks a solid melody to make it standout. ‘Show Me’ is pure reggae, decent enough but nothing to write home about. The genre hopping wears thin after a while, the songs are simply not strong enough to coalesce into a unified whole. The album feels like a pastiche of more famous material.
In conclusion one can say that the album starts strong but wavers in the last third, ‘If I Knew’ pulls it back a bit, it’s full on doo wop, something Mars excels in mightily. The lyrics on the album are another troublesome feature. Every song covers the same basic theme of girls, love and romance for good or bad. Songs like ‘Gorilla’ sound ‘out there’ or unusual enough for Mars to skip the same old themes and explore new terrain but alas. All the songs are well crafted and will appeal to the average pop lover. Bruno has a lot to offer and hopefully he can make a better album next time.