Bruno Mars steps from behind the piano and picks up a guitar, leading in with a vaguely familiar rift…

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Covering a song by the King of Pop is already a tall task.  When done right, it is one of the most powerful statements a band can make.  David Cook amazed American Idol with his cover of Billie Jean; Alien Ant Farm had instant success with their version of Smooth Criminal; and Fall Out Boy’s version of Beat It pays more than adequate homage to the original classic.  Bruno Mars, the smooth voiced cameo success of 2010 displayed plenty of vocal range in his songs, but transcended even that in this live version of Dirty Diana.

Most remarkable is his intonation, approaching some especially difficult notes with confident poise, almost with ease.  Bruno has already proven himself Top 40 worthy, but performances like this are what occupy history books.

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I stumbled across that performance just a few days before the official release of Mars’ debut album, and of course had to see if he lived up to his potential

Doo-Wops and Hooligans in 30 words or less:

Debut album from smooth crooner Bruno Mars, released October 4, 2010.  Well produced, but schizophrenic,  lyrically lazy, and spotty concept-wise.  A poor debut from such a promising artist.

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My Randomly Ordered Top 7 Moments on Doo-Wops and Hooligans

1. “Grenade” ; 1:17-1:47; This opening track is one of the few strong songs on the album, with all the pop sensibility you would expect.  Especially at 1:23 you see how Bruno makes use of his exceptional vibrato.

2)  “Our First Time”;  1:40;  With an instrument choice as smooth as his voice, this drop off accentuates an otherwise overlooked bass line.  The production on this track is some of the best on the album.

3)  “Our First Time”; 3:16; Just as the songs is winding down, Mars hits you with this Michael Jackson-esque falsetto which proves his incredible range and perfectly melds with the mood of the song.

4)  “Marry You” ; 0:39;  In an otherwise mundane track, this melody is reminiscent of the Motown era and is the only reason I didn’t skip this song.

5)  “Liquor Store Blues” ;0:18;  It’s funny how something as simple as a drop off can still be a moment in music, but combined with the falling melody leading up to it, this is clearly an inspired idea and well placed in this song.

6)  “Count on Me”; 2:03 – 2:34; That falsetto again; Mars knows his strength vocally and uses his, especially at 2:48.

7)  “The Other Side”; 3:15;  Arguably the best song on the album.  Mars is joined by Cee Lo Green, whose vocal range and vibrato blends brilliantly with him.   In this outro, production tends towards Gnarles Barkley-esque drums, covered by sustained notes from both Cee Lo and Bruno, while the stand out line of the song,“it’s better if you don’t understand”, is repeated over and over.  Unfortunately is is such a strong song that is leaves you wanting more, but all you have to go back to are 3 or 4 solid songs and alot of disappointment.

Albums like this are the reason Itunes exists.  “Just the Way You Are”, “The Other Side”, “Grenade” and “Liquor Store Blues” are worth picking up, but I would rather have saved my other $6.  I expect he’ll still sell well, but more from the power of singles and expectations than the quality of the work itself.

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October 12th Music Cache

Still have the VHS of Free Willy…

It’s too bad Panic broke up; I hope Brendan keeps the music coming

An extraordinary instrumental I stumbled across and got captivated by from “The Secret Garden”

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