Pop Goes Bruno Mars

Alex Catarinella

Bruno Mars is full of "corny metaphors" and laughing up a storm today -- he's even quoting Journey. And with the onslaught of gleaming reviews for his debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, flooding the Internet this week, it looks like it's going to stay that way for some time for the 24-year-old musician. Yes, it's been a meteoric rise for  singer/songwriter/producer Mars (despite that one tabloid-friendly incident...), whose single "Just The Way You Are" is sitting comfortably on the top of the Billboard Hot 100. That's not to mention his guest-spots on this past summer's hits, Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" and B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You." And let's not forget Cee-Lo Green's viral hit single, "Fuck You." Yep, Mars produced it. PAPERMAG caught up with the earnestly ecstatic and talented musician via phone on the big day of his debut album's release.

You've had quite a few insane months. How are you today?

I'm good! You know, I've been working really hard still to this day. I don't stop. I've been in the studio non-stop. I'm traveling, doing a show, but I couldn't be happier. The world is accepting me for me. They love me, they love me!

 
How did you celebrate the album release?

I'm trying to pull a dinner together -- keep it small and congratulate everyone that was a part of it.

For people who haven't bought your record just yet, how would you describe it in a sentence or two?

Eclectic. It's so unique -- let's put it like that. It's different. With all of the songs, I like to dabble in different genres and different styles of music. Because I'm such a music fan. I wanna be able to write any kind of song that I feel -- sometimes I feel a big ol' love song or a reggae song and you've got all of that. I think there's something for everyone on this album.

What makes a perfect pop song?

Someone told me, "Don't bore us, get to the chorus." I love choruses that kind of explode. I take that into consideration when I'm writing. I'm just full of corny metaphors today. If you thought that the cornies were over, no, no, no!

Top five albums of all time:

Dr. Dre, The Chronic. Beach Boys, Pet Sounds -- quote me on that! Everyone says Thriller but in my day it was the Bad album. You know, "Dirty Diana," "Smooth Criminal," "Man in the Mirror," "Another Part of Me" -- all of those songs, man. "The Way You Make Me Feel." Those songs were just funky. Extremely hip. That's when I was a kid, so that's how I see Michael. And I can't forget about Purple Rain, c'mon! And Doo-Wops & Hooligans. That's right! I said it.

Where do you want to be ten years from now?

Man, you know... I try my best to stay focused. But the reason why I'm doing this is my love for performing and being with my band and doing shows and taking my album out there. Hopefully ten years from now, I'll put out some great records and I'll still be performing on stage and more and more people are coming out to see a Bruno Mars show. I would love one day for one of my albums to be in that category. I'm so corny today!

Speaking of corny, did you see the Glee premiere? How did it feel to have your Travie McCoy duet "Billionaire" getting all Glee-d out?

Nice segue man! I didn't see it yet. I bought it off iTunes. I'm so busy. I'm on airplanes and at airports every day. But "Billionaire" is on Glee? Boom! That's the moment right there. It's very flattering that they'd wanna put that song on such a massive show.

And you're performing on SNL this weekend with Jane Lynch hosting. Can we expect any skits?

She's hilarious. She's gonna be great. A lot of people are asking me that. I don't know how that'll necessarily work. If it happens, it happens. I'm happy just performing. I would hate to forget a line and mess up a whole skit. I'd much rather just perform.

If you could collaborate with any performer, dead or alive, who would it be?

It changes every week -- I've been saying Prince a lot. But I listen to a lot of Little Richard. And I would love to be in the studio to watch how they recorded -- to me he's got one of the greatest voices ever, that great rock 'n' roll stuff. I would have loved to see that go down. We're so fortunate these days that we can record things and go back to it. But that was all one take, him in one room, with the back-up singers. I would have loved to see that go down and witness that.

You're pretty new to this fame thing. How are you dealing with the celebrity blogs and media scrutiny thus far?

It's just coming to terms with reality and when it comes to reality these days, everyone has a say. There've been nice blogs, there've been bad blogs, nice comments, bad comments. But everyone can go to iTunes and rate my album and can have an opinion on my album. And back in the day, it wasn't really like that. Technology -- Twitter, Facebook -- everyone communicates with each other. And I just have to accept that and I understand that. This is what it is in today's world. I'm fine with it.

There's good and bad. There's been a lot of positive feedback about my album. For me though, the YouTube stuff -- I never understood that when people come to a show and hold a camera up the whole time and then post it up. That's always funny to me. I always feel like if I go to a concert, especially a sold-out concert, I always wanna feel like this was for us and this was a one time thing. But it's stuff you just gotta get used to.

Out of all of the songs on your album, is there one that's most special to you?

"Grenade" on my album is my favorite song. I think we really spent a lot of time on that song -- it didn't come overnight. It was about two months in the making. We'd go to it, come back to it. We'd have certain parts of the verse, but the rest wasn't really panning out. When we finally got it, it was the world off of our shoulders. We knew there was something special about it. You gotta write a song like you're writing a book -- if you don't have a proper beginning a prop middle and ending... if one thing is weak, you only got like three to four to blow people away. Every lyric, every detail of that song -- we spent a lot of time on.

And out of all of your young, musical comrades, who's really doing it for you?

I love Drake's album -- I think he has a great album. I like Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj. I'm a big fan of Artic Monkeys.

What about singer-songwriters?

I think Alicia Keys is incredible. I saw her a couple years ago and when she was on the piano, she just gave me the chills. She's been doing it for a while. I have the utmost respect for Alicia Keys.

Someone needs to make a call to Alicia Keys and get a collab going!

I'd love to. I know she's going through her pregnancy right now, but when it's time for her to work on an album, yes!

What's the best piece of advice you can offer to aspiring musicians?

The best career advice I can give is to really know who you are. And really have four songs and don't go into a record label thinking if they sign you, you're gonna be a superstar. That's not how it works. People think it's your big break, but you basically need to have your album before you walk in the door. That's how you do it. "This is who I am," and put your record there. You gotta be confident  -- don't have the perception that "all I need to do is get signed, be a signed artist and I'll be superstar." It's not like that.

But if you wanna bring something to the table and you're a songwriter and an artist, you really gotta go in there knowing who you are and believe in your songs. And like Journey said, "Don't stop believing." Yes, I quoted Journey.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I'm really practicing on my Dougie -- you know, the "Teach Me How to Dougie" song. I'm a little late; it's been out for a while. But there's something about that record man. I wish I produced it. I'm also a Bieber fanatic. That's what you wanted me to say, right?


Bruno Mars's Doo-Wops & Hooligans is out now.

Subscribe to Get More