“Put your phone down, let’s get it, forget your Instagram and your Twitter,” Bruno Mars howls on “Perm,” an irresistible James Brown-style throwback from his new album. He’s long been pop’s time-traveler-in-chief, the guy who scored six No. 1s in five years thanks to a love of analog-era soul and one helluva Police impression (2012’s “Locked Out of Heaven”). But after achieving world domination with the inescapable “Uptown Funk!” Mars is embracing that role more than ever. 24K Magic, his third LP, swings from ’70s funk to ’90s R&B to ’80s torch songs with arrangements as opulent and over-the-top as the bling he brags about.
Mars’ approach is meticulous, if not obsessive. There’s not a single kick drum or bass lick out of place, and his arsenal of vintage synths could make even the Stranger Things composers jealous. That level of attention to detail can often lead to self-indulgent albums, but Mars shows restraint in other ways. With only nine songs, there’s not an ounce of fat on Magic, and nearly every track sounds like Top 40 gold.
24K Magic’s brief run time is a wise move for other reasons: Mars’ odes to penthouses and popping bottles can get old quick. In fact, the only real obstacle to enjoying his nonstop dance party might be his own persona. Mars can be devilishly funny — like on “Calling All My Lovelies” (which features a special guest appearance by Halle Berry), when he tells a hard-to-get love interest, “I got Alicia waiting, Ayesha waiting, all the -eshas waiting on me.” But he also tells women to smile more and gets pissed when a girl won’t drop everything for him. A one-percenter with jerky attitudes about women? That may not be what people want to hear in this new Trump Nation, but tune out the crasser moments and you’ll find Mars delivers what many fans need now: an escape.
24K Magic is now available to download and stream via iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and BrunoMars.com.