Note: I drafted this before Yung Bruno slayed the Grammys. For what it’s worth.
A girl I was dating once told me that she hated Bruno Mars. I remember where we were. Between sips of wine at a co-worker’s apartment, I took her in, slowly, trying desperately to hide my eyes, bugging out. Well, I thought to myself as I smiled through pursed lips and the room collapsed around me, This is not going to work out. That night was the last night I saw her. To be clear, I am not some ultra-Martian fanboy. In fact, I find a number of his songs, particularly ‘Lazy Song‘, to be incredibly annoying. I don’t subscribe to the notion that if you don’t think Bruno Mars is the best active musician, you are a raving lunatic. But I do draw a line in the sand when it comes to disparaging the man. You might think he’s cheesy, you might hate his sense of humour, you might find his throwback style cliché or naff, but you cannot, with any legitimacy, maintain that you hate Bruno Mars. He’s too good.
I was devastatingly wrong about ‘24K Magic’ but I still maintain that some shady backroom dealings must have stopped it being the number one song in the world last year. With ‘Finesse’ and its remix, Mars will have the last laugh. I don’t watch football but I did watch Mars’ halftime Superbowl performance last year and, if you can forgive the man an ill-advised appearance alongside the aging Red Hot Chili Peppers, his talent, on a stage that can so often flush out the talentless, was beyond reproach. It’s reminders of this live skill that render tracks like ‘Finesse’, which might otherwise sound hackneyed and overworked delivered by a lesser artist, eminently listenable. Even before watching the ‘Living Colors’-inspired video (see below), you can just see the little man two-stepping and body-rolling through this entire set piece.
The creation of memes and dance crazes has long been the domain of hip-hop artists (witness the Milly Rock, the dab, the mask off, the resurgence of the word ‘boujee’). Mars is one of only a clutch of writers good enough to create cultural moments like this, albeit on a smaller scale, in pop. Putting to one side the amazing adventure into 90s synth stab and snare drum territory that this track takes us on, the idea of ‘dripping in finesse’ has its origins precisely nowhere. Not unlike being ‘locked out of heaven’ or getting ‘Versace on the floor’, Mars has an uncanny ability to coin phrases that have never existed but sound universal enough that they should have. The appearance of Cardi B, the most hilarious Fallon guest in the last 12 months guaranteed, is just further evidence of Mars’ startling grasp of the zeitgeist. It’s simply not possible to hate a man so in tune that he knows to look backwards for musical inspiration and forwards for a feature vocalist, all while owning the present. And if you don’t know, now you know, ladies.
Bruno Mars – Finesse (Remix) Ft. Cardi B