Bruno Mars has power to pull in any listener to his orbit
Bruno, I don’t want to freak you out, but you may be our last hope at unity.
I know, that’s a lot of weight to lay on a pop artist — especially in an era of extreme polarization. But more than any other modern musician, Bruno Mars brings people together.
Everyone wants to dance to “Uptown Funk.”
If Mars — who headlines the TD Garden tomorrow and Sunday — can keep spinning out hot jams like “Uptown Funk,” we’ll be too busy grooving on the floor to argue. Of course, there are a few problems with this plan. First, pop escapism is a Band-Aid, not a cure, for our nation’s ills. Second, Mars will never top his collaboration chart-topping hit with Mark Ronson.
In 2015, “Uptown Funk” spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It hit the peak spot in at least 18 other countries. It has tallied nearly 800 million Spotify plays and 2.7 billion YouTube streams. Naturally, Mars has been chasing the song’s drunk-on-nostalgia aesthetic since.
Even before the global smash, Mars spent years trying to triangulate the center of Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake — and nearly pulled off the miracle with the 2013 genius single “Treasure.” Post-“Funk,” Mars hasn’t struggled (he’s huge), but he hasn’t been able to replicate the retro-meets-modern cocktail. “24K Magic” felt like overreaching, and “That’s What I Like” nicely added some new jack swing swagger, but that somehow dulled the hook.
I don’t typically advocate for artists to try to repeat themselves. But Mars occupies a unique space. At his best, he writes songs everyone knows or thinks they know. If you pay attention to pop radio, you know and probably love the man. If you ignore today’s Top 40 FM stations but happen to hear a great Mars track somewhere, you probably think it’s a ’70s, ’80s or ’90s nugget you just haven’t heard in decades. Like few other artists, maybe Stevie Wonder, Al Green or Prince, it’s hard to muster hate for Mars.
Now, I mean nobody can hate Mars when he’s in tip-top form. Plenty will, and would be right to, bash the pap of “Just the Way You Are” or “When I Was Your Man.” (The guy struggles with ballads.) But in our hearts, few will deny the glory of “Treasure,” “Chunky” or “Uptown Funk.”
Right now, America isn’t going to meet at the center of much. But people will meet at the center of the dance floor when the DJ plays “Uptown Funk.” For the next few decades, at weddings, high school reunions and Thanksgiving dinners fueled by a little too much merlot, the song will push people out of their chairs and onto the floor. Your Motown-addicted granddad, Donna Summer-loving sister and little cousins who claim they only like Lorde will all get up and boogie together thanks to Mars. That’s something to be thankful for.
Bruno Mars, at TD Garden, tomorrow and Sunday. Tickets: $149-$2,750; ticketmaster.com.