Monday, January 17th, 2011

Bruno Mars – Grenade

Back to business with the transatlantic chart-topper…


Chuck Eddy: One major light-bulb revelation I had while skimming year-end roundups in Entertainment Weekly (who put two of his singles, including this one, in their year-end top ten) and the New York Times (where Jon Pareles compared his songwriting to Smokey Robinson) is that there are people of taste out there who actually take Bruno Mars seriously. Probably if I’d been paying closer attention before, I would have noticed that sooner. But then again, if I’d been paying closer attention before, I might also remember how any of his other hits go. So anyway, I’m basically starting from scratch with this one, which I take it to be a, uh, “risky” departure of sorts. And I’ll give it this — it’s a real song; not Smokey, not even close, but you can hear the thought and craft and hard work that went into it. And I definitely detect a decent facsimile of Michael Jackson’s dread in the words and delivery both. But I’m still not really buying it much.

Tom Ewing: Katharine St Asaph’s summary of Bruno M as “the boy who sings the songs you wish your boyfriend would” has thus far been pretty much all you need to know about him. But “Grenade” shades devotion into obsession and takes it to gross, compelling extremes of death-wish kitsch. You’d give good odds that he’s not too far off deciding “you won’t do the same” is a situation that needs prompt attention. Some broody alt type will clean up before year-end with a cover that makes this subtext all too clear, so, er, ‘enjoy’ this while you can.

Katherine St Asaph: It took me about 300 plays (fortunately, radio programmers remain overgenerous in that regard), but I figured out who this reminds me of: Frank Wildhorn. Not just because it sounds like “Dangerous Game,” but the structure is pure theater-ballad: soft piano intro, build to bombast, add massed vocals on the chorus, sing about bullets through the brain and burning down in flames. It’s surprising how well it works not just as a song but in the Bruno Mars Campaign, built entirely upon how devoted a boyfriend he’d be to listener-you. At the very least, dude’s got a Plan B on the stage.

Jer Fairall: A tad melodramatic, doncha think?

John Seroff: Insipid, MJ-wannabe(startinsomething), narcissistic twaddle that suggests that none of the six (!) writers credited with penning this bullshit hairshirt ever saw A Doll’s House. For the good of my ground-down molars, incensed ears and nascent ulcer, I’m making an effort these days to be less angered by the sheer existence of Bruno Mars. He too shall pass.

Al Shipley: I stuck up for the sparkly saccharine charms of “Nothin’ On You” and “Just The Way You Are,” but his inevitable attempt at something a little less fluffy just comes out as shrill boy band histrionics, and he has neither the voice nor the personality to render it compelling.

Alfred Soto: He finds no vocal correlative for his ludicrous title metaphor, although he tries. Next time he should let Ne-Yo script his melodramas.

Jonathan Bogart: I guess every generation needs its “Everything I Do (I Do It for You).” At least this one doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Zach Lyon: This is gonna be one of those “hear me out” situations, isn’t it? It’s hard to defend this. Bruno’s dramatics are stupid, unconvincing and a little bit creepy. If it were better-written, it would still sound delusional and obsessive, like he’s imagining this relationship with a girl who doesn’t know his name. Instead, it sounds like it was written by someone going through the motions of a simple concept, based on nothing real, no actual emotion; the girl being written about doesn’t exist until she’s been cast for the video. But I can ignore the lyrics, and when I do, it hits every pleasure center: I’ll never not love a well-executed 808 beat, and these melodies are just as sweet as they get. When we get to “take a bullet straight through my brain!”, the song reaches a peak in both silliness and gorgeousness, and the latter wins out for me.

Martin Skidmore: There are certainly derivative elements to this (mostly from Michael Jackson), but it’s a pretty strong song, and I’ve always been a sucker for ‘no limit to my love’ songs. He delivers it rather well, smooth and a bit huskily soulful, and the production, from Bruno’s own crew the Smeezingtons, is rather beautiful for substantial parts of this. It makes it my favourite of his so far by a distance.

Iain Mew: “Just The Way You Are” took a commonly used throwaway piece of love song hyperbole and blew it up until it was slightly creepy (in reality if you answered every minor question with “YOU ARE AMAZING!”, the response would most likely be concern, possibly suspicion). “Grenade” does the same, only it’s on a whole different level because this time the particular cliché he’s going to town on is that he would die for you. Not die for you in a vague abstract sense that you don’t have to think hard about, but in the sense where he needs to list the different ways he could get cut up, squashed or exploded, and has lines starting “black, black, black”. And, of course, he expects the same in return — is that such a big deal? It rapidly gets so ludicrous that there doesn’t seem any choice but to marvel at how he ended up there, but the sincere pain in his voice and musical pyrotechnics are just about big enough to support the melodrama and not to collapse under the weight of it all.

2 Responses to “Bruno Mars – Grenade”

  1. what’s worth noting is that Prince follows up the “I would die for you” line with “Darling if you want me to”

  2. Bruno Mars needs to be introduced to the girl from The-Dream’s “She Needs My Love.” (“If it ain’t my love, you better have a doctor on standby.”)