Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants! Who’s on today?
Ah, Bruno, welcome back ya pompadoof. I feel like Bruno Mars is one of those guys you might as well be ok with, because, barring any really bad decisions, he’s going to be around for awhile. Even his dud singles catch on, and the guy’s made a reputation as a talented if not phenomenal performer who’s great at mining your parents’ record collections for inspiration. Mars operates at the level where he’ll probably only wow you once, but the rest of his material is consistently decent enough that it’d be hard for him to burn out. Most of the complaints that I had about him went away with “Locked Out of Heaven”, but one remains.
Bruno Mars has to be one of the worst people to go on a date with. Of all of his singles, exactly one isn’t about whoever he’s with (“The Lazy Song”), and out of that bunch, only one is about a relationship actually going well (“Just the Way You Are”). In the rest of them, Mars comes off as this possessive, obsessed, and overly clingy kind of guy. If pop music was high school, he’d be that guy who dates someone new every few weeks, and he never shuts up about it. All he talks about at lunch is how he thinks he sees a future with this one, this one has self-esteem issues, he cares about this one more than she cares about him, this one won’t put out, and all you need are the answers to his damn homework.
I’m bringing this up because right off the bat with the title of “When I Was Your Man”, I couldn’t help but think “not again”. There’s so much melodrama and grandstanding to the phrase “when I was your man” to begin with, and when you stack that with the guy who wrote a song about his girl leaving him called “It Will Rain”, it only gets worse. I mean, what’s Mars’ next move going to be, whipping out a lone spotlight and solo piano for this so–
…well, if nothing else, he plays to type, alright. At least it’s not an acoustic guitar.
Yes, “When I Was Your Man” is the stock Stripped Down Piano Ballad, which makes talking about the production to it a pretty short conversation. The Smezingtons are going for grandeur through size here; the piano and Mars’ voice both have a health dose of reverb. I actually like the piano part: it’s fairly uncomplicated, but has enough rhythm to it that the song doesn’t sag. The melody’s pleasant, especially towards the end of the chorus, and the chord progression’s a little overdramatic at times (remember who we’re talking about here), but overall, “When I Was Your Man” is a decent composition.
As for the vocals, Mars turns in a solid performance that I’m sure is going to be mangled on The Voice Idol Factor someday. He makes full use of his range, and even though he oversells the song, his theatrical styling fits the tone, and he does great work on the song’s bridge. “When I Was Your Man” is supposed to be his most honest, most personal song to date about a pre-fame romance that went wrong, so what kind of lyrics are we looking at?
“Same bed, but it feels just a little bit bigger now” You ever heard of Death Cab For Cutie? They have a fix for that…
“When our friends talk about you, all that it does is just tear me down/Cause my heart breaks a little when I hear your name” Holy shit, Bruno, how did you screw this up that hard with someone you care about?
“I should bought you flowers/And held your hand/should have gave you all my hours/When I had the chance/take you to every party cuz all you wanted to do was dance/Now my baby is dancing/But she’s dancing with another man”
So wait, you weren’t showing her affection, making her feel wanted, or doing things that she enjoyed? What the fuck were you two doing while you were together?! No wonder you aren’t her man anymore.
“My pride, my ego, my needs, and my selfish ways/Caused a good strong woman like you to walk out my life” Fine, points for honesty.
“Oh, I know I’m probably much too late/to try and apologize for my mistakes” Wait, wait, sorry Bruno, I keep zoning out to songs you’re not quite name checking. Are we ready to bag this?
“I hope he buys you flowers/I hope he holds your hand/Gives you all his hours/When he has the chance/Takes you to every party because I remember how much you love to dance/do all the things I should have done/When I was your man”
Alright, I’d blow this one off were it not for the line “I remember how much you love to dance”. It ties the narrative of the song together nicely, and shows a nice bit of thought at the end. It’s kind of touching.
I guess “When I Was Your Man” gets by for me. This time, Mars raided your mom’s old Billy Joel cds, but the result’s nice. The song has a Billy Joel feel not just because it’s a piano tune, but because it’s a pop ballad that might not reach the back of the stadium transcendence that the artist was going for, but still holds up as a solid pop song. Just talk to me about something other than your girl next time, Bruno. Like, where do you buy your hats?