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Bruno Mars is the voice behind two of the summer’s biggest rap singles, B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ On You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”, not to mention the writer of Flo-Rida’s “Right Round” (by way of Dead or Alive) and Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You”. Oh, and there’s that current Itunes chart topper of his own, “Just The Way You Are”. Like Bruce Dickinson before him, it’s safe to say the man makes hit records – no cowbell.

Doo Wops & Hooligans is a collection of pop songs that find Bruno delving into various genres of music, almost trying on different styles and seeing what sticks. When playing the R&B crooner, he’s the opposite of Trey Songz, trading the bad-boy-in-bed persona for the sensitive male. On “Grenade”, he suggests he would outright die for you, ladies (catch a grenade, jump in front of a guillotine, etc), while his smash hit “Just The Way You Are” pours the syrup on thick; he doesn’t even care about your stretch marks! Where it works best though is on “Marry You” though, a catchy, sure to be smash single that finds Bruno suggesting an overnight, impulse Vegas wedding; you know, just for the hell of it. Never mind the morning after.

At times, Bruno’s brand of harmless pop does come off as a bit cheesy. For instance, “Our First Time” is a trite bedroom song, just as contrived as it’s title suggests. Meanwhile, “The Lazy Song” (another telling title) is littered with product placement for cable TV culture, a gimmick that wears thin after one listen.

Granted, when he goes for substance, he nails it. His collaboration with Damien Marley, “Liquor Store Blues” is executed perfectly, equally capturing spirit of both hustler and slacker. The funky “Runaway Blues” is an uptempo jam that might have otherwise gone to Cee-Lo had he not claimed it, while “The Other Side” actually employs Cee-Lo (along with B.o.B.), loosely interpolating Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game”. Loosely.

There is potential for greatness within Bruno Mars, as it shows from time to time on Doo Wops and Hooligans. His brand of simple pop music will work for him, allowing him to capture the ears of the masses, but it’s clear that there is a stronger artist buried within just itching to get out.

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