Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars

About Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars has a good story about Prince: Mars is hanging out at an awards show, during a commercial break. The crowd is filled with celebrities. Suddenly, Mars feels the room shift, people part, and there he is, Mars told Apple Music in a 2016 interview—Prince, “just floating by, levitating by.” Prince catches Mars’ eye and gives him a thumbs-up, and Mars—stunned—gives Prince a thumbs-up back. “And that’s it,” Mars said. “What more can you ask?”

More than a Prince co-sign? How about a stack of multi-platinum records? The privilege of being able to entertain people the world over? Mars has those too. But you get the sense that the nod from Prince was affirmation of a higher order. Even when he was living on instant ramen noodles and trying to find his way into the industry, Mars knew he didn’t just want to be a songwriter or a singer or a producer, but—like Prince, or maybe Michael Jackson—a total pop package, the kind of artist who’s as powerful in the studio as they are onstage. Those records, though: “Uptown Funk”, “Locked Out of Heaven”, “That’s What I Like”. Fun, omnivorous, generation-bridging. The kind of stuff that Mom will be pulling you onto the dance floor for. Mars could do old-fashioned showmanship, could credibly play the crooner with a live band to boot. But he also had an ear for hip-hop and R&B, could—like all great pop—collapse the distance between then and now, Black music and white. Most of all, he knew how much retro was retro enough: Music that made you think about the past, not pine for it.

Born Peter Hernandez in Honolulu in 1985, Mars took the stage early, famously doing Elvis impersonations with a family revue at a local hotel before he even hit kindergarten. (In one formative moment, young Mars wet his jumpsuit during “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, but finished without flinching.) As a teenager, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a deal with Motown Records. The deal went nowhere, but Mars kept himself afloat by writing and producing with a team called The Smeezingtons, which he helped found. In 2010, he released his debut, Doo-Wops & Hooligans. By 2012’s Unorthodox Jukebox, the image had gotten a little grittier, the sound a little more diverse and the retro affectations—goodbye, pompadour—a little less pronounced. Leaning on the slick bounce of ’80s and ’90s funk and R&B, 24K Magic followed in 2016, sweeping its nominations at the Grammys.

A confessed perfectionist, Mars pushes on. “All the statues or Time magazine—that s**t is beautiful and made my parents and my family proud and all that,” he told Apple Music. “But there’s this battle within—that you always wanna. You got this fighter’s spirit. I still feel like I’m chasing to prove something to myself, that I got a better song in me.”

  • HOMETOWN
    Waikiki, HI
  • BORN
    08 October 1985

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