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Friday, October 22, 2021

Album Review: 24K Magic

GENESIA TING / AGGIE
GENESIA TING / AGGIE

Bruno Mars makes us reminisce on the 1990s school dances we never had

When thinking of the best way to describe Bruno Mars’ third album, the image of the quintessential 1990s geometric neon patterns and disco balls spinning overhead comes to mind.

After a four-year album hiatus, Mars returns with 24K Magic, which can only be described as a major ‘90s throwback. Think funkadelic R. Kelly. Mars has shown us hints of funky R&B potential in his previous album Unorthodox Jukebox, especially notable in my personal favorite song, “Treasure,” and he definitely plays this off to the max in the new release.

It’s tricky to play off an old, outdated and established genre and to make it something new and original. While his songs are undeniably catchy, they follow the ‘90s formula far too closely, which has restricted anything new and creative. Mars has sadly fallen into the curse of the genre’s past.

The album begins with its title song, “24K Magic,” setting the precedent for the rest of the album with electro-hyper keyboard notes, a catchy beat and simple, repetitive lyrics about a sick party and pretty girls. Autotune makes some appearances, as does Mars’ characteristically talented falsetto, which hasn’t changed since his last album. The song is reminiscent of “Uptown Funk” (sorry I had to bring up that overplayed song), but it seems obvious from the start that the album is just an extended version of his greatest hit.

“Versace on the Floor” is one of the slower tempo songs of the album. Again keeping with the genre customs, the high notes on the keyboard are accompanied by high “pop” sounding background beats found in ‘90s R&B. The slow songs of the album are seductive. His clean and smooth voice was made for songs like this, and illustrates the range of sounds Mars can execute.

My favorite song of the album is “Perm,” which is the most organic song. The back-and-forth between a new, rough version of Mars’ voice and the backup singers feels more playful and less forced than other songs. Horns and intricate percussion are more artfully incorporated, and it is the song that is closest to the coexistence between the old and new sound I was hoping for from Mars. It’s fun and super funky, and is my prediction for one of the more popular songs on the album.  

Let me say this: the album is not bad. The songs are catchy and it’s certainly a fun listen.

However, Mars had a rare opportunity to establish his own unique sound, and I am disappointed in his attempt. He previously gave us hints of what he could do but fell through. He is a talented artist and has a voice made for something more creative and funky in the modern age, but he resorted to just copying a past genre rather than being inspired by it. His attempt to try something original in the pop scene was simply not executed as well as it could have been — it came across as an unoriginal throwback.

But hey, the 1990s are popular with the kids these days, so I could see this album producing a couple chart-toppers. But for a more conscious music consumer, I simply have to take this album the way it is, and maybe lower my expectations for Mars.

I’ll wait for a redeeming album number four.

Written by: Caroline Rutten — arts@theaggie.org

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