Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B – Finesse (Remix)

This one’s for you, James! (Spoiler: the next two are also for you)


Katie Gill: I am 100% here for the Bruno Mars Tour Through The Decades. 1970s retrofunk, 1980s Kool & the Gang R&B, and now 1990s Bell Biv Devoe New Jack Swing — complete with an amazing homage video (they kept the frame size, y’all!). As always, Mars gives us a pitch-perfect homage that’s draws enough from the original style for a beautiful throwback but adds in fun, fresh takes. The song lyrically doesn’t bring anything new: it’s just ‘damn we look good.’ But more and more, it seems you don’t really listen to a Bruno Mars song for the lyrics; you listen for whatever throwback sound he’s reworking today and you watch to see Mars be a legitimate showman, giving it his all with his charisma and borderline impeccable dance moves. Cardi B is also in top form: she matches Mars’s infectious fun and swaggering confidence level for level. Considering what a boring blight 2017 top 40 pop music seemed at times, what a refreshing way to start off the new year.

Edward Okulicz: I hear those drums and this is instantly Cardy! Cardi! Cardé! Very affectionate, very accurate, and very welcome. I wouldn’t have said no to more Cardi, but I still enjoy the song when she’s not around.

Micha Cavaseno: During the holiday visit, me and my father caught up and I showed him a bunch of current generation female rappers that he didn’t know of: Molly Brazy, Bali Baby, Asian Doll, Queen Key, just to name a few. Of course he knows about Cardi so we both brought her up and he jokingly called her “The New Real Roxanne.” Ironically here she is on this Bruno remix of early-’90s New Jack Swing, the kind of stuff Full Force would’ve primed up for Roxanne to guest on or even rap over herself — and she sounds actually like she’s having fun. Bruno, on the other hand, is kind of just way too stiff to really engage with. For all the obvious Bobby Brownisms he’s going for, the Vegasness that runs through him keeps him from hitting the sweet spot of engagement. Still A+ effort on both parties.

Julian Baldsing: In “Finesse,” Cardi’s your charismatic friend, Bruno’s that guy from her work who you’ve said hello to once, and the 127 second space between her appearances is when she takes a trip to the restroom while he makes small talk and you keep glancing at your phone’s lock screen. Still, everyone has a fantastic time when she’s around.

Anthony Easton: I wonder if Cardi B’s charm is a kind of rough hewn minimalism, and I know Bruno Mars’ charm is mostly a whole scale riffling through nostalgic desire. Neither of those modes read finesse to me. 

Alfred Soto: I get that fans get off on Bruno Mars releasing eerie simulacra of extinct R&B sounds. “Finesse” is his Teddy Riley or “Poison” Move, and it’s the aural equivalent of a Meryl Streep performance. 

Austin Brown: The single cover says it all, really — the queen of the new generation of hyperreal, social media-bred celebrity, mugging for the camera next to an unconvincingly stony Bruno Mars, once described by TSJ’s very own Katherine St. Asaph as an “animatronic sequined suit” for Pitchfork. Cardi’s verse is tacked on at the very front, after which she disappears entirely until she throws in some outro vocals. As a result, the two parts of the song (which was basically “fine” before) work great independently, but feel like a weird medley of two generations of pop sitting next to each other. Oh, and here’s some added weirdness: the two generations aren’t even their native ones, with Cardi mining peak hip-house while Bruno sticks with new jack swing. Come on, Diddy and Blackstreet already figured out how to make this work fluidly more than 20 years ago.

Thomas Inskeep: I love the hell outta Bruno’s 24K Magic album, and this song was always a highlight, as New Jack Swing as it gets — the production/writing teams of Shampoo Press & Curl and the Stereotypes are on their shit. Adding a rap intro from the hottest woman of the moment makes it even mo’ betta, though I wish they’d brought her back for a 16-bar bridge, too. Mars may be the ultimate musical chameleon, but damned if he doesn’t sound the most comfortable plumbing the sounds of ’80s R&B. More, please.

Will Rivitz: I’m kind of ashamed it’s taken me this long to fall in with Cardi B. “Bodak Yellow” and “Bartier Cardi”are both phenomenal songs, to be sure, but to me they’ve never sounded like the glamorously regal performances others have advertised, the rapper vibrantly excellent but not unquestionably dominant. It’s taken till this, a new jack swing song which would seem well out of her wheelhouse in which she nevertheless so commandingly stomps all over the track’s first thirty seconds that Bruno Mars almost feels like an afterthought, but I finally understand what her fans have been saying. 

Katherine St Asaph: Things I didn’t expect but probably should have: A) Cardi B turning around “Bodak Yellow” with a pop-rap verse this effervescent B) on a Bruno Mars new jack swing track. Can 2018 be full of this kind of good surprise?

Will Adams: The song knows which side of the bread is buttered, which is why Cardi B kicks things off with a verse that proves her versatility as a rapper. After that, the excitement wears off a bit. As I’ve mentioned before, merely recreating the sounds of yore as meticulously as possible doesn’t always result in a modern jam. And while Bruno Mars is absolutely the best man for the job, “Finesse” rides the line of novelty and creates distance between it and me.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Not much is as emblematic of Bruno Mars’s modus operandi as a music video shot in 60fps with a 4:3 aspect ratio. He creates nostalgic music that’s as flashy as it is alien-like, and the only way he seems comfortable overcoming the latter is by doubling down on the former. A line like “Blame it on my confidence, oh blame it on your measurements” is as garish as it comes, but his commitment to the shtick overcomes any apparent personality deficiencies. It reminds me of why a lot of K-pop is successful, and it’s one of the reasons why I believe some people have been making comparisons between it and Mars’s music for the past few years. Naturally, “Finesse” was produced by The Stereotypes, and this ends up being a stronger effort than Korea’s recent new jack swing efforts precisely because of how effortlessly fun it sounds. It’s, of course, in no small part due to Cardi B’s presence–she plays her role comfortably, utilizing lines and a flow that feel like a love letter to the ’90s. With “Finesse,” she’s already more versatile than many of her peers, and it’s the best case for her staying power yet.

Alex Clifton: I still hear the chorus as “trip to Inverness,” but I don’t even care. This is fun! Cardi B and Bruno Mars are an unexpectedly charming collaboration–Bruno brings his usual upbeat magic and Cardi lets loose a little. It’s a delight to hear something that simultaneously invokes the 90s while never actually feeling dated; it’s just a shot of joy. I’m ready to start off 2018 with a good party banger to cleanse myself of the past year, and this fits the bill. 

Reader average: [7.5] (6 votes)

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4 Responses to “Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B – Finesse (Remix)”

  1. I didn’t blurb this but just want it on record that I still love Bruno Mars and I love Cardi and this is so much fun

  2. thanks for the shoutout :’)

  3. Loved what Joshua said. I love me the pop that is miles away just pure sincerity. So many western artists say they love Jpop or Kpop and superficially have that influence, but they still have that arteest sneer ensuring that they’re better, really, and those lose me super fast.
    Ever since Mars started his retro recreation tour, you can both see and hear him having so much sincere fun, and that’s hard to resist, especially since he and his collaborators have an impeccable sense of craft. They know exactly what they love about the music they’re creating, and it’s the same thing we’re all loving, too.

  4. Didn’t blurb this either but I would have given this a 10.