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Released: 2012

Label: Atlantic Records

Pop-aficionados, let me take you on a rewind to 2012. The airwaves were dominated by a certain Hawaiian heartthrob named Bruno Mars and his diamond-certified marvel – “Unorthodox Jukebox”. Released under the banner of Atlantic Records, this sophomore album was anything but a slump, challenging the restraints of pop music and introducing us to a wider spectrum of Mars’ musical versatility. It’s a cocktail of retro funk, reggae, pop, R&B, rock, and soul, featuring ten richly layered tracks that perfectly demonstrate Mars’ knack for genre-bending and his extraordinary vocal range. It’s as punchy as it is poignant, oscillating between foot-tapping anthems like “Locked out of Heaven” and “Treasure”, to heart-wrenching ballads like “When I Was Your Man”.

This album not only topped charts worldwide but also showcased Mars’ unapologetic attitude towards experimentation (cue the lusty ode “Gorilla”). It’s audacious, it’s bold, and it’s unflinchingly Bruno. It marked a seismic shift in Mars’ sonic palette, opening up doors to a wider audience and accelerating his transcendence into pop superstardom. There’s a reason why we’re still jamming to “Unorthodox Jukebox” almost a decade later. So let’s get into it. From “Young Girls” to “If I Knew”, we’re breaking down the album “Unorthodox Jukebox” by Bruno Mars.

1 Young Girls

It mirrors the glamour and pitfalls of fame, the bright-eyed honeys symbolising the glittering world that’s irresistibly intoxicating but potentially fatal, keeping him “up ’til the sun is high,” an addictive cycle he can’t seem to break free from. Yet the killer line, “But love don’t exist when you live like this, That much I know, yes, I know”, underscores Bruno’s hard-earned wisdom, recognising the hollowness in these ephemeral relationships. From grand declarations of surrender, “All you young, wild girls, you’ll be the death of me,” to the painful admission of codependency, “I always come back to you,” Mars delves into the darker side of frivolous love and the relentless cycle that comes with it.

2 Locked out of Heaven

Combining elements of reggae and new wave, Mars bares his soul singing, “‘Cause your sex takes me to paradise / Yeah, your sex takes me to paradise / And it shows”. This staggering declaration, framed by the song’s arresting and vibrant rhythm, amplifies Mars’ emotive lyrics. The line “You bring me to my knees, you make me testify”, is a vivid testament to his lover’s transformative impact. Bruno explores the ecstasy and agony that accompanies an all-consuming love, the feeling of being exiled from a personal paradise that only his lover can provide. With “Locked Out of Heaven”, Mars reaffirms pop music’s enduring potential as a cathartic medium for expressing vulnerability and longing.

3 Gorilla

The lyrics are rich with innuendo and raw energy, as Mars dances on the edge of decency with a mischievous chuckle in his voice. Straddling a line between audacious boasting and tender vulnerability, the song’s protagonist is both a brash adventurer, fueled by “a body full of liquor with a cocaine kicker”, and a susceptible lover, eager for intimacy. “You and me, baby, makin’ love like gorillas”. Mesmerising in its daring, the song captures a primal, passionate love affair, with Mars unabashedly declaring, “You just smile and tell me, ‘Daddy, it’s yours'”. Despite its brazen cheekiness, the track is a potent exhibit of Mars’s wide-ranging vocal talent, vivid lyricism, and his knack for creating engaging, memorable tunes.

4 Treasure

It’s a sonic throwback to soulful early 1980s pop, and a lyrical homage to a love interest that Mars venerates as his “treasure.” His lyrical prowess shines through in lines like “You’re wonderful, flawless, ooh, you a sexy lady / But you walk around here like you wanna be someone else.” The song’s overarching message celebrates self-love and appreciation, as Mars repeatedly insists how exceptional his muse is – ultimately aspiring to convince her of her own worth. When he sings “Treasure, that is what you are / Honey, you’re my golden star / You know you can make my wish come true / If you let me treasure you,” Mars encompasses the essence of the album – unapologetically loving, desiring, and pursuing the subject of his affection.

5 Moonshine

The heady verses of “You’re the best way I know to escape the extraordinary / This world ain’t for you, and I know for damn sure this world ain’t for me” encapsulate a sense of otherworldliness in the mundane, a sentiment that echoes throughout the entire song. There’s a pleading nature in the repetitive calls of “Take us to that special place / That place we went the last time” further underscoring the sense of nostalgia and yearning for connection that typifies the track. Ultimately, “Moonshine” presents us with a Mars who isn’t afraid to explore the complexities of love and longing, both thematically and songwriting-wise, set to a rhythm that is pure pop gold.

6 When I Was Your Man

Mars is no stranger to imbuing his tracks with a raw emotionality, but what sets this ballad apart in ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ is the haunting self-awareness, epitomized in the line: “My pride, my ego, my needs, and my selfish ways / Caused a good, strong woman like you to walk out my life.” These lyrics place his lover in an evocative dance floor narrative that’s painfully relatable; it’s the classic tale of the one that got away. Mars takes a good hard look in the mirror, and his reflection confesses its own inadequacies. And the masterpiece leaves no room for ambiguity—it’s an apology, a stepping stone towards redemption. But whether this redemption ever graces his parched heart, only the echoes of his forlorn melody can tell.

7 Natalie

The protagonist seethes with fury, having been swindled in love and wealth by the eponymous Natalie. Mars vents his frustration declaring, “Well, I’m diggin’ a ditch for this gold-diggin’ bitch,” a blistering response to the deceit he has been put through. The lyrics also unveil vulnerability through refrains like “She never said forever / I’m a fool that played in her game,” pointing to the narrator’s regret and self-blame. In essence, Mars transforms his heartbreak into a provocative tale of retribution, capturing the complexity of human emotions in a stunning lyrical wash. True to form, he raises the stakes with a menacing warning, “Natalie, if you see her, tell her I’m comin’ / She better run,” suggesting an enigma never really resolved but forever echoing in the annals of pop music.

8 Show Me

He croons, “Baby, here we are again, I can see it in your eyes, you want a good time”. Bruno’s command is both sultry and soothing, as he coaxes an unnamed lover into showing her true desires. The hook, “Then show me, You got to, you got to show me,” mirrors the rhythmic urges of the refrain “Girl, Pleasure, Pleasure Island is where we can go”. The lyrics drip with tantalizing anticipation and provide a riveting snapshot of Mars’ artistry, demonstrating his knack for creating soulful, intimate moments within pop hooks. Reminiscent of bedroom whispers, Mars pensively explores the theme of honesty in intimacy; if it feels right, why fight it? “Show Me” embodies the essence of Mars’ pop masterclass with a reggae twist.

9 Money Make Her Smile

Bruno Mars cleverly intertwines the intoxicating allure of money and dance, succinctly captured in the line, “You see, music make her dance and money, money, money make her smile”. This catchy refrain underscores the song’s unstinting focus on the power of lucre—not only does it make her dance, it drives her happiness. By repeating “Give her what you got” in the chorus, Mars further hammers home the inseparable connection between money, pleasure, and satisfaction. What’s particularly striking here is the seamless weave of a flippant, superficial narrative with deeper cultural commentary—on the one hand, Mars gives us a foot-tapping dance track, while on the other, he offers a piercing insight into society’s obsession with wealth and material success.

10 If I Knew

He sings, “But I wouldn’t have done all the things that I have done If I knew one day you’d come”, a searing confession of how his past actions might have marred a future with love. The song’s poignant plea to leave the past behind grounds it in a hopeful resolve. Mars lays bare his vulnerability with lines like, “I know most girls would leave me, but I know that you’ll believe me”, echoing the plea for understanding and acceptance. This track is a testament to Mars’ knack for injecting authenticity into his pop sensibilities, making for a compelling narrative of love and regret.

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