As the 27-year-old singer-songwriter releases his second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, a look at why the R&B crooner is ready to take over the world:
99. Born Peter Gene Hernández, the artist arrived fully formed. Although he had setbacks before his first album, Doo-Wop & Hooligans, when it was his time in the spotlight, the kid was ready.
98. Mars had done his homework and came with a tailor-made image.
97. He was original, yet familiar. It’s like Michael Jackson meets Adele. It’s soul music that feels good.
96. All his family members are entertainers. When your uncle is an Elvis impersonator, you don’t make your art too precious.
95. He joined his family’s band, The Love Notes, at just four years old.
94. Think about that: Mars has already spent 23 years in showbiz.
93. Which is why he handles himself so well. He’s the anti-Lindsay Lohan. He’d make a terrific date to your daughter’s prom.
92. But it’s not just about his clean image. Mars is a bona fide star and his music — irresistible R&B, light reggae, sweet harmonies — passes the sniff test.
91. He’s gorgeous, sure. And always photographs well in terrific hats. But the music is catchy and timeless. It doesn’t make you embarrassed to be listening to the same record as your mom.
90. Which is another part of his appeal. He’s melodic, which is worth a lot more than being hip, no matter how many hats you own.
89. That said, he’s also pretty cool. And we really want to borrow his hats.
88. He wrote F–k You for Cee Lo Green and Wavin’ Flag for K’naan.
87. Even if that might not have turned out so great for K’naan. 86. But you don’t see Mars complaining about the woes of fame in The New York Times.
85. Last month, he earned his stripes as one of the few talents to be both the musical guest and host of Saturday Night Live.
84. As with Andre 3000, it’s obvious there’s more than just music on Mars’s mind.
83. He can play the guitar.
82. Sometimes with his teeth.
81. And he listens to everything from Jack White to Jodeci, though calls Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black record his North Star.
80. Which is why he hired Winehouse producer Marc Ronson for Unorthodox Jukebox. Which brings us to pop mega-fame rule No. 1:
79. Never be too cool to collaborate with someone you love.
78. His parents met onstage in Hawaii. His father played percussion and his mom was a hula dancer.
77. Whose mother is a hula dancer?
76. Zero Canadian pop stars can claim such a colourful ancestry.
75. Which just adds to his appeal. He’s Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, half-Jewish and grew up in Brooklyn. He’s a living Benetton ad.
74. And how did he get the name Bruno? His father thought he looked like the wrestler Bruno Sammartino.
73. That just makes his father sound awesome. This being the man who married the hula dancer from his show.
72. But Mars took his time before releasing his first record. He wrote for Sean Kingston and Adam Levine before writing his first album.
71. The reason? He was teaching himself how to write.
70. Which is why Just the Way You Are, the lead single from his first record, reached No. 1.
69. He kept his friends close. After his record deal with Motown fell through in 2009, he joined The Smeezingtons, a hit factory based in Los Angeles, and perfected his retro sound.
68. The Smeezingtons produced Unorthodox Jukebox. And even though they wrote hits for Snoop Dogg and Adam Lambert, they save the best stuff for Mars.
67. Who often delivers his hits with a smile. That smile, which you didn’t see on Justin Bieber at the Grey Cup, is the key to his cool.
66. He’s enjoying himself, enjoying his music. Which makes it difficult to resist.
65. No wonder he says one of his earliest influences was Little Richard.
64. Mars doesn’t come across like a tortured soul.
63. That said, he has a dark side. He was arrested for cocaine possession in 2010. He said it was the first time he ever used drugs.
62. So maybe send along a chaperone when you let your daughter go to prom with him, OK?
61. Also: He’s sold 40 million singles.
60. Why is that? He blends genres, taking things you know — acoustic guitar licks, Motown choruses — and mixes them into something new.
59. You know who else did that? Elvis. 58. Unorthodox Jukebox may be the name of his new album, but it’s also the recipe for his success.
57. Because, when you think about it, he’s flooded the market with his music. Not just his own stuff, but what he’s written for other artists. Yet it remains current and vital.
56. One reason for that is he works with colourful artists, who make his sound their own. But another reason is that he’s working with an entire music catalogue, which incorporates everything from The Beatles to Zeppelin.
55. You don’t repeat yourself if you never run out of influences.
54. And Mars changes with the times.
53. And let’s get into fashion. Even if rappers are wearing skinny jeans, Mars makes his tailored clothes look effortless.
52. Who else dresses like The Rat Pack and rolls with Snoop?
51. But that’s what makes him unique. The most prized possession of a pop star is their authenticity. Mars has this in spades.
50.Because he doesn’t wear his clothing like a costume. When Bieber’s in overalls, it’s embarrassing. When you see Mars in his suit, it looks out of a page in GQ.
49. Even if the suit is gold lamé.
48. Mars doesn’t need a coach to teach him his swagger.
47. And he doesn’t have a Svengali. Even Justin Timberlake had Timbaland.
46. Mars comes by his fully formed sound and image on his own.
45. Which translates easily to the studio. He’s not only a singer, but he plays bass, keyboards and drums.
44. To wit: Playing every instrument adds to Mars’s musicality — and forget about his live show.
43. The man doesn’t have to lip-synch — though he dances like Janet Jackson.
42. Which is why he’s been nominated for 13 Grammys.
41. Nothing’s cooler than a boat load of success.
40. And who’s going 39-times platinum these days?
39. And earning critical acclaim? Rolling Stone gave Unorthodox Jukebox four stars.
38. Even though the record hints that he’s still growing. He spent two years on the album’s 10 songs.
37. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. This is his boy-to-man album, where he can talk about strip clubs and drugs.
36. Eventually, he won’t have to define himself.
35. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter, because he’s such a convincing performer. He could read our January social calendar and make it sound exciting.
34. That comes from innate rhythm. You can’t teach what Mars has.
33. Nor can you teach his sincere desire to be famous. Not every artist is willing to release a Target-exclusive track, after all. (That song, Old & Crazy, features Esperanza Spalding, who may rival Mars for coolest person in the world.)
32. Although not quite. Because it was Mars who was smart enough to recruit her.
31. And Unorthodox Jukebox is a beauty. Young Girls, the opening track, is a pop star’s lament, with Mars crooning like Al Green over a beat that marries Stevie Wonder with — yes! — Skrillex.
30. It’s current and classic.
29. Mars plays the lonely heartthrob on Locked Out of Heaven, then turns into R. Kelly on Gorilla.
28. He can switch from hero to villain, because even his come-ons are winking.
27. Mars doesn’t want to alienate.
26. Which isn’t to say Mars can’t sing. He makes his records work beyond the videos.
25. We saw what happened with LMFAO: If you’re only a gimmick, you can’t last.
24. And Mars sounds assured. When I Was Your Man opens up with a Billy Joel-like piano lick.
23. It’s a perfect lead-in to Natalie, which brings back the beat from Grenade.
22. No need to recreate the wheel on every track.
21. It’s like Chris Rock said: “That thing that you do which bought your mother a house? Do that.”
20. Mars doesn’t stray too far from that thing that scored him one billion views on YouTube.
19. For instance, the reggae inflection of Show Me could’ve been a hit and brought back Sean Kingston.
18. Interestingly, though, none of his songs have guests.
17. Mars is too smart for that. Every track is him, and him alone.
16. Which creates a more unified package and singular vision.
15. One that’s perfected on the album’s last tune, If I Knew, which could almost be by The Temptations.
14. And he knows where his strengths lie: Mars traverses dark territory but, in the end, he’s the lovestruck crooner under a street lamp snapping his fingers.
13. That’s the image the record leaves in your head.
12. After all, his parents’ band was The Love Notes, and Mars is keeping their vision alive.
11. He wants to record and tour with his parents.
10. He told The Associated Press: “When the right time comes, you’ll see it on some kind of reunion tour, Behind the Music: Bruno’s Family, trying to revive my career.”
9. This is a smart because: 1) fame is fleeting; 2) that would revive his career, since his parents have experience playing Vegas.
8. But, for now, Mars doesn’t need any help.
7. He’s following his own plan.
6. Which makes it all appear so effortless.
5. So, in case you couldn’t tell, this is no sophomore slump.
4. From the styling to the album art, Mars maintains his gleam of perfection.
3. He’s upped the vulnerability and let his teeth show a little beneath the grin.
2. He’s an entertainer, after all.
1. And Unorthodox Jukebox will continue his ascent on the charts.