Bruno Mars 'Doo-Wops & Hooligans' (Elektra)
3 stars = Good
This is the debut album from Bruno Mars, but it's not his first rodeo. The Hawaiian-born pop singer has been riding the charts, singing the hooks on Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" and B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You," and he's also written songs for Flo Rida and Sean Kingston.
"Doo-Wops & Hooligans" has scored an early chart-topper with "Just the Way You Are," an up-tempo ballad that shows off his yearning vocals, complete with lovely falsetto, and there's more to go with it in dramatic opener "Grenade" and soaring power ballad "Talking to the Moon."
Like Usher and just about every singer in this club, Mr. Mars takes his vocal cues from MJ, whether it be on the lush love song "Our First Time" or retro-soul rocker "Runaway Baby."
The album doesn't stay locked into a contemporary R&B groove, as it bounces into light Jason Mraz/Sugar Ray-style reggae on "The Lazy Song" and a heavier dub zone with toaster Damian Marley on "Liquor Store Blues" (the young singer should have stuck to the liquor store 'cause he was busted for cocaine in Vegas last month). It also takes a late tangent into Gnarls Barkley land on "The Other Side," complete with golden-voiced Gnarls frontman Cee-Loo Green and rapper "B.o.B." "Count on Me" counts among the misses, sounding scarily like the Jonas Brothers.
Although the finished product is less a cohesive statement than a bunch of singles tossed together, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" is promising start for a pop singer who really could make the world stop and stare for a while.
-- Scott Mervis
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