24K Magic is ‘golden’
Bruno Mars' new album achieves musical greatness and is sure to become a classic in due time.
December 5, 2016
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There’s a reason why Bruno Mars’ new album is titled 24K Magic. The composition, style and sheer sound of each record achieves a degree of perfection that can only be described as just that- magical. The album consists of just nine songs, which I had originally thought to have been a tribute to the soulful R&B and hip-hop of the 90’s, with which Bruno Mars grew up. But closer listening reveals influence from almost every major decade for music and the legends that ruled them. This album somehow succeeded in making me nostalgic of a time during which I wasn’t even alive.
One name that comes to mind with this album is James Brown: the king of funk and godfather of soul. Mars’ raw vocals work with the sound of a full brass band to pay homage to the man who practically invented the genre that Mars seems to thrive in. You don’t need to know a thing about music to feel the emotion on this album. You can really hear it during the bridge of the 4th song, ‘That’s What I Like,’ where Mars pours out his heart with the passion of a gospel song. What truly makes the heartbreak-induced raspiness in his voice impressive, is his ability to switch to a smooth, clear and almost angelic tone at the drop of a dime. When I first heard the impossibly high note he hits in the chorus of ‘Calling All My Lovelies,’ my mouth gaped open, as I had just truly felt the magic of the album.
There’s no shortage of bells and whistles on ’24K Magic.’ Musically, it’s incredibly complex. Nearly every song is enhanced with dense background vocals, dance breakdowns, auto-tune and unique arrangements. Because this style is so striking and different from the majority of pop music today, it almost overshadows the beauty of Mars’ lyrics. On the album’s last track, “Too Good To Say Goodbye,” Mars uses the strength of his voice to deliver painfully relatable lyrics about heartbreak. Going into the chorus he belts, “Tell me why? Why can’t we try and start again? This can’t be how our story ends.” Although these lyrics are fairly simple, the vulnerability in his words is what makes them human and in turn, truly beautiful.
Another recurring sound on the album draws inspiration from late 80’s pop. With just the opening note of ‘Versace On The Floor,’ the synth keyboard succeeds in transporting you to a middle school dance. The adult theme of the lyrics paired with the cutesy, ‘slow-dance’ vibe of the song itself is just another example of how Mars can effortlessly fuse genres. Also, it’s in this style of song that Mars’ vocal styling is deeply reminiscent of one of R&B’s pioneers, Stevie Wonder.
An album that draws from so many genres has the potential to be all over the place. This isn’t the case with 24K Magic, however, because it’s held together by hip-hop. 60’s swing is fused with classic 90’s R&B by way of modern hip-hop beats and slang. This is what makes Mars unique as an artist. He’s able to seamlessly combine genres while maintaining his own personal style.
It’s no surprise that Mars infused his unmistakable style throughout the work, but what differentiates 24K Magic from previous albums he has released is the common theme that can be found in nearly every song. This album is about being young, rich and having a good time. The album’s namesake and already hit single, 24K Magic, is about living in the moment and doing so lavishly. The song’s music video is not at all lacking in gold jewelry, Versace outfits and luxury cars. It even features Mars casually cruising around on a jetski.
Mars, 31, has been in the industry for a long time, ghostwriting for other artists as well as trying to make it himself. It’s only fair now that he’s earned a fortune, and he celebrates it. This album does just that, while at the same time delivering an array of excellent songs and quite frankly, musical greatness. 24K Magic will soon become the classic from which future artists will draw inspiration, just as Mars did from his idols.