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Bruno Mars’ ‘24K Magic’ album review: Lush wa-of-sound quality

Singer’s first album in four years gets into a dance-party groove with retro boy-band harmonies

Image Credit: AP
This cover image released by Atlantic Records shows, "24K Magic," the latest release by Bruno Mars. Mars, 31, said the album was inspired by his love for R&B acts like New Edition, Boyz II Men and Jodeci. (Atlantic Records via AP)

Bruno Mars pays homage to his musical influences with a groovy, R&B-inspired collection that sounds straight outta the 1990s. 24K Magic is a party album that recalls Michael Jackson, James Brown, New Edition and retro boy-band harmonies. It’s just a shame it’s only 34-minutes long.

Mars has said he hopes his first album in four years inspires listeners to dance, and 24K Magic succeeds. The title track (and hit single) sets the toe-tapping tone for the dance-party groove that follows. On Chunky, Mars sings, “If you ain’t here to party, take your [expletive] back home.” And even the late Godfather of Soul would shake his hips to Perm, where Bruno channels his best Brown over trumpet-tinged funk. Finesse is a different kind of throwback, all New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe.

The album plays like a dance party, with slow jams built in to catch your breath. Mars reaches for a Jackson-inspired falsetto on the ballad Versace on the Floor and goes for more of a Boyz II Men vibe on Calling All My Lovelies.

It’s a shift in direction for the multi-Grammy Award-winning entertainer - more R&B and less pop than the 2014 hit Uptown Funk or Mars’ 2012 album, Unorthodox Jukebox. Mars replaced the Smeezingtons, the production team comprising himself and two partners that worked on his first two solo albums, with producers Shampoo Press & Curl, who give the songs on 24K Magic a lush, wall-of-sound quality.

The result is a groovy party that ends too soon.