Bruno Mars has returned to funk you up. Early Friday — the eve of his 31st birthday — the reigning R&B king dropped “24K Magic,” the title track and lead single from his upcoming third studio album, out Nov. 18. Taking cues from 2Pac’s “California Love” and Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson, it’s the kind of effortless throwback pop Mars seems capable of dispatching in his sleep.
Like Mars’ previous smashes from “Just the Way You Are” to “Locked Out of Heaven,” “24K Magic” brims with detail and finesse. Perhaps more than any of his Top 40 peers, attention to detail and world-class chops are what makes Mars’ music tick; those qualities enable “24K Magic” to practically levitate, from its vocoder-channeled opening call to the dancefloor to its ebullient chorus. In a pop sphere where Auto-Tune’s ubiquity can sometimes feel inescapable, Mars flaunts his supernatural knack for organic music without reservation.
Mars’ considerable star power has skyrocketed since his last album, 2012’s Unorthodox Jukebox. The native Hawaiian performed in the Super Bowl halftime show — twice — and scored his sixth No. 1 hit with his ubiquitous, Grammy-winning 2014 Mark Ronson collaboration “Uptown Funk.” Accordingly, “24K Magic” courses with victory-lap swag. “Guess who’s back again!” Mars boasts. “Oh, they don’t know? I bet they know soon as we walk in.” Later, he’s even more vivid: “I’m a dangerous man with some money in my pocket.” For most other artists, “Uptown Funk” would mark an unbeatable pinnacle; the bliss of “24K Magic” proves that, for Mars, “Funk” was just another milestone in a career that’s still rapidly ascending.