Do I have to?
I’ll be honest, I haven’t really been looking forward to this review. 2010 had a lot of new faces, and I don’t think I was as ambivalent towards anyone as I am towards Bruno Mars. He’s a promising behind-the-scenes talent; he’s done some solid producing/song-writing, and he can write a fantastic hook (see: “Nothin’ on You”). But at the same time, his wussy falsetto and smarmy bastard personality make me roll my eyes at him every time. Then again, I did end up liking “Just the Way You Are”, so let’s see what happens with “Grenade”.
“Grenade” begins with Mars’ usual tenor singing backed by piano, because in-case it never came up before, Bruno Mars can play him some piano. I still have my problems with Mars as a vocalist, but he’s pretty good as a performer; he puts all the emphasis on the right places. The lyrics are straightforward enough; there’s this girl (Bruno Mars writes about a girl again, whoddathunkit?) who just blows him off. The verse, while not spectacular, works alright. My one complaint is that the line “Had your eyes wide open, why were they open?” has an incredibly awkward placement, like they needed to fill the space with something, stuck that line there, and never came back to make it something better.
And now, the chorus, in which Mars offers to catch a grenade, get his head impaled on a sword, get hit by a train, or take a shot to the head, all for this girl. Normally, I’d call someone out on rhyming ya 4 times, but, it actually conveys the desperate and–I’ll say it–needy tone of the song. And if I’m being honest, this is a fairly weak chorus. My main problem with it is that the music does a dramatic upswing with clattering drums and strings, and the lyrics are “Hi, I will maim and/or kill myself just for you”. Or “Hi, I will get with the ugly girl in your group, just to bed you” (if only they could have made the video about that…).
Let’s see, the second verse passes without much incident, besides Mars offering to get himself beaten to a pulp for this girl. You know, when did we decide that this was how we wanted our loved ones to feel? I guess it’s a nice sentiment in theory, but saying that you’ll risk serious injury or death for the other person (especially when they won’t do the same) is a trait commonly associated with stalkers and obsessives.
Then there’s another chorus before a very Michael Jackson inspired bridge, where the song picks up considerably. The drama that the music has implied throughout the whole song is finally realized as the bridge builds on itself before calming back down. And then comes the one truly awesome moment of the song, when Mars comes down on “But darling, I’ll still catch a grenade for ya” (trust me, it sounds better than it reads), where the song sounds as immediate as it’s wanted to for the past three minutes. But sadly, it fizzles back to normal about ten seconds later, and the extended outro.
And that’s a shame, because “Grenade” really could have had a strong ending. The song’s been compared to Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” (a concert cover favorite of Mars’), and the comparison doesn’t do “Grenade” any favors. “Dirty Diana” is legendary in the way it builds and more importantly, sustains it’s intensity, a skill Bruno Mars doesn’t have. Yet.
Huh…this is a tough one to call. While “Grenade” isn’t bad, features some of Mars’ better singing, and a standout bridge, it also doesn’t really flow well as a song, and the lyrics cover incredibly familiar ground in one of the clumsiest ways possible. The whole song has an unflattering sense of self-importance, like it wants to be bigger than it just can’t be. Not quite a misstep, but nothing that’s putting Mars ahead, either.