Harper Smith
Leah Greenblatt
September 29, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Doo-Wops & Hooligans

Current Status
In Season
Bruno Mars

We gave it a B+

Until about two weeks ago, Bruno Mars could have called his auto-biography Almost Famous. The 24-year-old Hawaiian had his name on two pop smashes — B.o.B’s ”Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s ”Billionaire,” both of which he co-wrote, co-?produced, and sang on — but little of the press attention that often follows those who top the pop charts. One arrest (in Las Vegas, for drug possession) and one No. 1 solo hit (sweetly smitten ballad ”Just the Way You Are”) later, he is, for better or worse, no longer an ”almost.”

Doo-Wops & Hooligans aptly applies Mars’ studio talents: instant-access melodies, creamy production, sly snatches of dance-floor swagger. And he do, in his own postmillennial way, wop; a malt-shop heart beats beneath the digital skin of tracks like the buoyant ”Marry You” and woebegone ”Talking to the Moon.”

Atmospheric opener ”Grenade” and ”Runaway Baby,” with its ’60s-soul snap, are immediate stylistic standouts, though other modes suit him less well; ”Our First Time” feels a bit too Al B. Sure!, and ”The Lazy Song” is perhaps better left to Jason Mraz. Still, Hooligans proves that this onetime background player makes a pretty solid first banana. B+

Download These:
Grenade? a captivating masochist’s anthem at youtube.com
Runaway Baby? a snappy retro trip at youtube.com

See all of this week’s reviews

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