After his part in making B.o.B's Nothing On You and Travie McCoy's Billionaire two of the biggest pop songs of 2010, US sensation Bruno Mars has become the man of the moment almost overnight. Born Peter Gene Hernandez, for his debut album the Hawaii-reared musician has once again been working with his songwriting team The Smeezingtons (Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine), the same group responsible for the aforementioned smash hits and the main reason Bruno is leading this year's Grammy nominations with no less than seven nods. Too bad little of this album matches the drum-heavy danceable quality of current #1 single Grenade.
By now it's clear Mars knows his way around a radio-friendly tune, but too often he leans towards the mediocre end of pop, serving up predictable melodies with little trace of originality. Worse, his lyrics veer between being cringe-worthily clichéd and downright clunky, often straddling both, as on the horrifyingly trite Marry You ("Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you"), complete with wedding bells. Boasting mild reggae influences throughout, Our First Time's attempt at the genre is cheesy and sleazy all at once, while the sunny The Lazy Song comes across as sickly sweet, until you listen more closely to the words, that is. Thankfully Liquor Store Blues is much more successful, which is almost entirely down to Damian Marley's contribution adding a slice of credibility to proceedings. The Other Side again sees Mars upstaged by his collaborators, as Cee-Lo's remarkable attitude-packed voice far outshines Mars' teen-friendly tenor and B.o.B.'s words roll with effortless fluidity.
There's no doubt Mars is a capable pop songwriter with a firm finger on the formula for a number one hit, but with the bland, sappy and occasionally seedy character he conveys on this album, he makes it very difficult to care.