After one of the most exhausting years in recent memory, I feel it’s safe to say that the world is collectively desperate for little fun to close out 2016. Bruno Mars must’ve sensed that we were gonna need that, because his third studio album, 24K Magic, could not have dropped at a better time. Running at a little over a half-hour, 24K Magic is unabashedly radio-ready retro R&B, spanning decades of influence. There’s the New-Jack-Swing sound of the late 80s on tracks like “Finesse” and “Straight Up and Down”; 90s G-funk homages in “Chunky” and title track “24K Magic”; 2000s R. Kelly-style crooning on “That’s What I Like” and “Calling All My Lovelies”; and even a little James Brown swagger coming through on the excellent “Perm”.
The success of 2014’s throwback-heavy “Uptown Funk” was clearly not missed by Mars – 24K Magic is like a time capsule of R&B, with a little something for a fan of any era. Lyrically, each song is saying the same thing more or less: Bruno’s got enough money, cars, swagger, and finesse to impress any object of his desire. But I find that although lyrically, 24K Magic may not be the most challenging release of 2016, its’ artistic value is immeasurable. To me, this is an album that was created to be purely joyous. Done by any other artist, a collection of nostalgia-reliant songs may have sounded gimmicky. But Mars’s star power and genuine enthusiasm burst through on each track, never pandering to an audience, and make this record a truly exuberant listening experience for his fans. For that, 24K Magic shines as one of the brightest pop releases of 2016.
Must Listens: “Chunky”, “That’s What I Like”, “Perm”, “Finesse”