Peter Gene Hernandez (born October 8, 1985), known professionally as Bruno Mars, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, and dancer. He is known for his stage performances, retro showmanship, and for performing in a wide range of musical styles, including pop, R&B, funk, soul, reggae, hip hop, and rock. Mars is accompanied by his band, the Hooligans, who play a variety of instruments, such as electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, drums, and horns, and also serve as backup singers and dancers.
Mars performing on the 24K Magic World Tour in 2017
Peter Gene Hernandez
October 8, 1985
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mars moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to pursue a musical career. After being dropped by Motown Records, Mars signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 2009. In the same year, he co-founded the production team The Smeezingtons, responsible for various successful singles for Mars himself and other artists. Mars rose to fame in 2010 with the release of the successful singles "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B and "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy, both of which featured his vocals on the hooks. His debut studio album Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010) spawned the international number-one singles "Just the Way You Are", "Grenade", and "The Lazy Song". The former won the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
Mars' second album, Unorthodox Jukebox (2012), became his first number one album on the US Billboard 200 and won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. Its singles "Locked Out of Heaven" and "When I Was Your Man", reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2014, Mars collaborated with Mark Ronson on "Uptown Funk", which topped many music charts worldwide and won Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards. In 2016, Mars co-founded the production team Shampoo Press & Curl, who replaced The Smeezingtons on the composition of his third studio album, the R&B-focused, 24K Magic. The record received seven Grammy Awards, winning the major categories of Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. The album also yielded the successful singles "24K Magic", "That's What I Like", and "Finesse".
Mars has sold over 130 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has released seven number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 since his career launched in 2010, attaining his first five faster than any male artist since Elvis Presley. As a songwriter, he was included in Music Week and Billboard magazine as one of the best songwriters of 2011 and 2013, respectively. Mars has received several awards and nominations, including 11 Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, nine American Music Awards, 10 Soul Train Awards and holds three Guinness World Records. He has appeared in Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011 and Forbes magazine's lists of '30 under 30' in 2013, and Celebrity 100 in 2014, 2018 and 2019.
Life and career
1985–2003: Early life and musical beginnings
Peter Gene Hernandez was born on October 8, 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Peter Hernandez and Bernadette San Pedro Bayot, and was raised in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu. His father is of half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish descent (from Ukraine and Hungary), and is originally from Brooklyn, New York. His mother emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii as a child, and was of Filipina, and some Spanish, ancestry. His parents met while performing in a show in which his mother was a hula dancer and his father played percussion. At the age of two, he was nicknamed "Bruno" by his father because of his resemblance to professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.
Mars is one of six children and came from a musical family which exposed him to a diverse mix of music genres, including reggae, rock, hip hop, and R&B. His mother was both a singer and a dancer, and his father performed Little Richard rock and roll music. Mars' uncle was an Elvis impersonator, and also encouraged three-year-old Mars to perform on stage. Mars performed songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers, and The Temptations. At the age of four, Mars began performing five days a week with his family's band, The Love Notes, and became known in Hawaii for his impersonation of Elvis Presley. When he was five he peed himself during a performance of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love" (1961), which led his parents to think they could be making a mistake. However, Mars never waivered. In 1990, Mars was featured in the Hawaiian tabloid shopper MidWeek as "Little Elvis" and performed in the halftime show of the 1990 Aloha Bowl.
In 1992, he appeared in a cameo role in the film Honeymoon in Vegas and was interviewed by Pauly Shore on MTV. When Mars was six years-old, he was featured on The Arsenio Hall Show and throughout grade school, he performed with his family's band, two shows a night, covering Frankie Lymon and Little Anthony, as well. When he was a child he had a small version of a drum set, guitar, piano and some percussion and learned to play the instruments. By age 12, his parents divorced, thus ending The Love Notes act. His father's various businesses, that ranged from temporary-tattoo parlor to memorabilia shops, failed. Consequently, there was no longer a steady source of income. He moved out of his parents' house along with his brother and father. They lived in the "slums of Hawaii", on the back of a car, on rooftops, and in an abandoned bird zoo, Paradise Park, where Mars' father worked before it closed. The singer had to move to a new schools and initially he was bullied, but he became popular in his last school days.
Nevertheless, the time Mars spent impersonating Presley had a major impact on his musical evolution and performing techniques. He later began playing guitar after being inspired by American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. In 2010, he also acknowledged his Hawaiian roots and musical family as an influence, explaining: "Growing up in Hawaii made me the man I am. I used to do a lot of shows in Hawaii with my father's band. Everybody in my family sings, everyone plays instruments... I've just been surrounded by it." When he attended President Theodore Roosevelt High School in Honolulu he sang in a group called The School Boys, who did several shows including opening for Mars' father new band. The singer, while in high school, passed for the big time of Hawaiian entertainment, becoming the opening gig for a huge magic show and impersonating Michael Jackson in a celebrity-impersonators show, making $75 for performance.
After Mars' sister in Los Angeles, California played his demo for Mike Lynn, (the head of A&R at Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment record label), Lynn summoned Mars to Los Angeles. In 2003, shortly after graduating from high school at the age of 17, Mars moved to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career. At that time, he lived on Mansfield Avenue and was surprised by the poverty and squalor of the neighborhood. He adopted his stage name from the childhood nickname his father gave him, adding "Mars" at the end because: "I felt like I didn't have [any] pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I’m out of this world, so I was like I guess I'm from Mars." Moreover, the adoption of his stage name was also an effort to "avoid being stereotyped", as the music industry tried to pigeonhole him as another Latin artist. They even tried to convince Mars to sing in Spanish.
2004–2010: Production work and It's Better If You Don't Understand
—Mars, speaking about his experiences of moving to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career.
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Mars signed a record contract with Motown Records in 2004, but the deal "went nowhere", leading him to have a conversation with will.i.am's management, which also turned out to be fruitless. However, the singer's experience with Motown proved to be beneficial to his career. Songwriter Philip Lawrence was also signed to the label.
After Mars was dropped by the label less than a year after being signed, he stayed in Los Angeles and landed a music publishing deal in 2005 with American record producer Steve Lindsey and Cameron Strang at Westside Independent.
—Cameron Strang, speaking about developing Mars' career.
Lindsey showed Mars and fellow songwriters Brody Brown and Jeff Bhasker (who Mars met through Mike Lynn) the ins and outs of writing pop music and acted as a mentor, helping them to hone their craft. Bhasker explained that Lindsey would "mentor us, and kind of give us lectures as to what a hit pop song is, because you can have talent and music ability, but understanding what makes a hit pop song is a whole other discipline." Lindsey confessed he "held Mars back for five years while they learned an extensive catalog of hit music." In a different interview Brown corroborated the former story. During this time, Mars played cover songs around Los Angeles in a band called Sex Panther with Bhasker and Eric Hernandez (Mars' brother), who eventually became the drummer of Mars' main band, The Hooligans.
When Philip Lawrence was first told he should meet Mars he was reluctant to do so since he did not even have money for bus fare. Keith Harris, drummer for the American musical group The Black Eyed Peas, told Lawrence: "Whatever it costs you to get out here, I'll reimburse you." Lawrence responded: "Just give me five dollars back for the bus." The pair began collaborating, writing songs for Mars, but they received many rejections from record labels. On the verge of giving up, they received a call from Brandon Creed, who was looking for songs for a reunited Menudo. He liked their song "Lost", which was written for Mars. The duo did not want to give the song away, but when they were offered $20,000 for it, they agreed. The sale of this song allowed them to continue working, and Mars and Lawrence decided that they would write and produce songs together for other artists. Eventually, Creed became Mars' manager for nine years.
In 2006, Lawrence introduced Mars to his future A&R manager at Atlantic Records, Aaron Bay-Schuck. After hearing him play a couple of songs on the guitar, Bay-Schuck wanted to sign him immediately, but it took roughly three years for Atlantic records to finally sign Mars to the label, because they felt it was too early and that he still needed to develop as an artist.
Before becoming a successful solo artist, Mars was an acknowledged music producer, writing songs for the likes of Alexandra Burke, Travie McCoy, Adam Levine, Brandy, Sean Kingston, and Flo Rida. He also co-wrote the Sugababes' hit song "Get Sexy" (2009) and provided backing vocals on their album Sweet 7 (2010). His first recorded appearance as a singer was on Far East Movement's second studio album, Animal, on the track "3D" (2009). He was also featured on American pastor and hip hop artist Jaeson Ma's debut single "Love" in August 2009 and on Travie McCoy's "One At a Time" (2009), a charity single for MTV's Staying Alive foundation. He reached prominence as a solo artist after being featured on, and composing (as part of the production group The Smeezingtons) B.o.B's "Nothin' on You" (2009) and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" (2010); both songs peaked within the top ten of many music charts worldwide, with the former charting at number one on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart.
Mars said of these successful singles: "I think those songs weren't meant to be full-sung songs. If I'd sung all of "Nothin' on You", it might've sounded like some '90s R&B." Then, on May 11, 2010, Mars released his debut extended play (EP), titled It's Better If You Don't Understand. The EP peaked at number 99 on the Billboard 200 US albums chart and a music video was released for the song "The Other Side" featuring CeeLo Green and B.o.B. Mars, under The Smeezingtons, composed Green's single "Fuck You" (2010).
2010–2012: Doo-Wops & Hooligans
After serving as guest vocalist on B.o.B's and Travie McCoy's singles, Mars released "Just the Way You Are" on July 20, 2010. The song was the lead single from his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), and reached number one in the US, Canada, the UK, and several other countries worldwide. The song holds the record as the longest-reigning debut adult contemporary format hit, spending twenty weeks atop the Adult Contemporary chart in the United States. Mars also released two promotional singles, "Liquor Store Blues" featuring Damian Marley and "Grenade", before confirming the latter as the album's second single on October 21, 2010. "Grenade" also reached number one on the US Hot 100, Canada, and the UK. It was also successful on other international charts. The album, released on October 5, 2010, in the United States, debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling 55,000 copies in its first week of release in the US. It charted at number one in Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and other international album charts. Doo-Wops & Hooligans received generally positive reviews from music critics and has since sold six million copies worldwide. In February 2011, "The Lazy Song" was released as the third single from Doo-Wops & Hooligans and became the album's third consecutive top-five hit on the Hot 100, peaking at number four, while reaching the top spot in Denmark and the UK.
"Talking to the Moon" became the fourth official single, only in Brazil, following its appearance on the soundtrack of the Brazilian telenovela Insensato Coração (Irrational Heart) from 2011. It reached the top position on Billboard Brasil's Hot Pop Songs and Hot 100 Airplay, spending several weeks on top of both charts. "Marry You" was first released as an international single on August 22, 2011. Although it was not released as a single in the US, it peaked at number 85 on the Hot 100 on January 15, 2011 due to strong digital sales (2.2 million sold as of 2015[update]) and entered in several charts worldwide. In November 2011, "Count On Me" was released as the album's overall sixth single only in Australia, but charted in various regions. Additionally, Mars recorded and composed with The Smeezingtons a song titled "It Will Rain", the first single for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 film soundtrack (2011). The song was released on iTunes on September 27, 2011. It peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number two in New Zealand. During this period, Mars appeared on a number of collaborative singles, including "Lighters", with American hip hop duo Bad Meets Evil, issued on July 5, 2011, "Mirror", with American rapper Lil Wayne, released on September 13, 2011, and "Young, Wild & Free" with American hip hop artists Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, available for purchase on October 11, 2011. The songs peaked at number four, sixteen, and seven on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively, and reached the top twenty of various music charts worldwide.
On September 19, 2010, Mars was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Hard Rock Casino for possession of cocaine. While talking to a police officer, Mars reportedly declared that what he did was "foolish" and that "he has never used drugs before." Mars pleaded guilty to felony drug possession and in return was told that the charges would be erased from his criminal record as long as he stayed out of trouble for a year. He paid a $2,000 fine, did 200 hours of community service, and completed a drug counseling course. Nevertheless, in a cover story for GQ magazine in 2013, Mars said: "I was young, man! I was in f---ing Vegas...I wasn't thinking". He added: "I was given a number one record and I'm out doing dumb sh--." Mars confessed that he lied to the authorities about having done cocaine before, saying "I don't know where that came from", adding: "I was really intoxicated. I was really drunk. So a lot of that is a big blur, and I try every day to forget."
Mars started to promote his debut album as the opening act for American bands Maroon 5 and OneRepublic on the fall leg of the former act's Palm Trees & Power Lines Tour. Later, on October 18, 2010, the singer began a co-headlined European concert tour with Travis McCoy that lasted until early November. Doo-Wops & Hooligans received further promotion when the singer embarked on his first headlined concert tour, The Doo-Wops & Hooligans Tour, which ran from November 2010 to January 2012. Nevertheless, in February 2011, a joint co-headlining tour between Mars and Janelle Monáe was announced, dubbed Hooligans in Wondaland Tour (2011). The concert tour was performed in North America in May and June 2011. Most shows took place on smaller venues, such as theaters and ballrooms, which narrowed down Mars' income in the short term, since he rejected various offers to open for notable artists on arena tours, but led to create a substantial fan base.
At the 2011 Grammy Awards, Mars won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Just the Way You Are" and received other six nominations for his work: Best Rap Song, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Record of the Year for "Nothin' on You"; the latter category along with Song of the Year for "Fuck You" by CeeLo Green, and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical as part of The Smeezingtons. At the 2012 Grammy Awards, Mars lost all the six categories in which he was nominated to British singer Adele. This included Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Best Pop Solo Performance, Record and Song of the Year for "Grenade", while Producer of the Year, Non-Classical as The Smeezingtons was lost to Paul Epworth. During this time, Mars also won his first American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist, International Male Solo Artist at the Brit Awards and the Echo Award for Best International Male.
2012–2014: Unorthodox Jukebox and Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show
On March 22, 2012, it was announced that Mars had signed a worldwide publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis US. In September 2012, when interviewed by Billboard magazine, Mars stated that his next album would be more musically varied and that he refused to "pick a lane", adding: "I want to have the freedom and luxury to walk into a studio and say, 'Today I want to do a hip-hop, R&B, soul or rock record' ". He announced the album title, Unorthodox Jukebox, along with the ten songs which would make the final cut, as well as the title of the first single, "Locked out of Heaven", which would be released on October 1, 2012. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Canada and peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart. It also charted within the top ten in various countries.
Unorthodox Jukebox, produced mainly by The Smeezingtons, was released on December 11, 2012, in the United States. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, but eventually peaked at number one on the chart. It also charted at number one in Australia, Canada, Switzerland, and in the United Kingdom, where it became the third fastest-selling album by a solo artist in 2012. The album has since sold six million copies worldwide. "When I Was Your Man" was released as the second single from Unorthodox Jukebox and also peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100; with the feat, aside from Elvis Presley, no other male artist had achieved five number-one singles on the Hot 100 more quickly than Mars. It reached number two on the UK Singles Chart and was top ten in several countries worldwide. The album's third single, "Treasure", peaked at number five in the United States, but had less commercial success worldwide than the previous two singles. On May 24, 2013, Major Lazer issued a remix of "Bubble Butt" as the fourth single from their album Free the Universe, featuring Tyga, 2 Chainz, Mystic, and Mars on vocals. In late 2013, "Gorilla" and "Young Girls" followed as the fourth and fifth singles from Unorthodox Jukebox, and reached the top 35 on the Hot 100.
Mars ran his second headlining concert tour, the Moonshine Jungle Tour, from June 2013 to October 2014. He also announced a concert residency titled Bruno Mars at The Chelsea, Las Vegas, Paradise, Nevada. The tour grossed $156.4 million. On September 8, 2013, Mars was disclosed as the headline performer at the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, which took place on February 2, 2014, with American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers as special guests. It was the first Super Bowl halftime headlined by a performer under 30 in a decade. It was the most watched halftime show in the history of the Super Bowl at that time, drawing a rating of 115.3 million viewers. The viewership for the halftime show was higher than that for the game.
At the 2014 Grammy Awards, Mars won the award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Unorthodox Jukebox. "Locked Out of Heaven" was nominated for Record and Song of the Year, while "When I Was Your Man" earned a nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance. In the same year, the album was recognized with the Juno Award for International Album of the Year. Aside from his music career, Mars played the role of a singing Spix's macaw named Roberto in the film Rio 2, which was released in theaters on March 20, 2014. He also contributed to the film's soundtrack with the song "Welcome Back". In October 2014, British musician Mark Ronson announced his new single, "Uptown Funk", released on November 10, 2014, featurig Mars' vocals. The song was a major commercial success, reaching number one in several countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. "Uptown Funk" spent a total of fourteen and seven weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart, respectively. Its success led it to become a worldwide phenomenon with major impact on pop culture. In 2013, Mars was named Artist of the Year by Billboard and ranked number one on Forbes magazine's '30 Under 30' list, a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30 in the US.
2015–present: Super Bowl 50 Halftime performance and 24K Magic
After ending the Moonshine Jungle Tour, Mars began working on his third studio album, 24K Magic. He wrote on his Facebook page: "Now it's time to start writing chapter 3". The artist had not come up with a date for the release, stating: "Until it's done ... It's gotta be just as good if not better". In March 2015, the artist provided some details of the new album on the Chinese magazine that's Shanghai. Mars stated he wanted to improve his songwriting, shows, music videos, and make a better album than the previous two. In the same year, Mars (as part of The Smeezingtons) composed "All I Ask", a track from Adele's album 25. Their work with Adele brought Mars a Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 2017 Grammy Awards. On December 2, 2015, it was announced that British rock band Coldplay would be headlining the Super Bowl 50 halftime show on February 7, 2016. Mars and Beyoncé were guest acts, marking their second time appearing on the Super Bowl halftime. The halftime show became one of the most watched in Super Bowl history.
At the 2016 Grammy Awards, Ronson and Mars' featured single, "Uptown Funk", won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Record of the Year. In the same year, it was reported that Mars was working with bass player Jamareo Artis, engineer Charles Moniz, musician Brody Brown, singer-songwriter Andrew Wyatt and EDM producer Skrillex. Moniz and Artis confirmed the album was set to be released in 2016. The album was to be issued in March, but Mars' appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show led the release to be postponed several months. At that time, seven songs for the album had already been recorded. In May 2016, the singer split with his manager, Brandon Creed, as the latter sold half his management company. Mars took his business affairs under his own management company, Gorilla Management, operated by Aaron Elharar. In 2017, the corresponding edition of the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Mars as the "First Male Artist to achieve three 10-million-selling-singles".
"24K Magic" was released as the lead single from 24K Magic on October 7, 2016. The single peaked at number four in the United States, reached the top spot in Belgium (Flanders), France and New Zealand. In November, CBS broadcast an interview segment on 60 Minutes, in which Mars talked about his new album and humble roots. This was his first television appearance in four years. 24K Magic, released on November 18, 2016, debuted at number two on the album charts of the United States, Canada, France and New Zealand. It received positive reviews from music critics and was composed mainly by Shampoo Press & Curl, a production team consisting of Mars, Philip Lawrence and Brody Brown, which replaced The Smeezingtons. "That's What I Like" was released as the album's second single on January 30, 2017 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it had less success in international markets. In June, the original version and a remix with French DJ David Guetta of "Versace on the Floor" were issued as the album's third single. It reached the top 35 of the Hot 100. In November, "Chunky" was announced as the album's fourth single only in Australia. "Finesse", remixed to feature American rapper Cardi B, was released as the final single, on January 4, 2018. It reached the top-three on the Hot 100 and Canada and peaked at number two in New Zealand.
In late 2016, the singer started his second concert residency at the Park MGM's Park Theatre to end in 2020. He also announced his third headlining concert tour, the 24K Magic World Tour, which began in March 2017 and ended in December 2018. The tour grossed more than $300 million worldwide. On September 12, 2017, it was confirmed that Mars would be starring in his first TV concert special, titled Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo, a one-hour special, which aired on CBS on November 29, 2017. Mars received seven awards at the 2017 American Music Awards, including Artist of the Year, two for "That's What I Like" and other two for his album 24K Magic. He also won Album/Mixtape of the Year at the 2017 Soul Train Music Awards, in addition to four other awards at the ceremony. At the 2018 Grammy Awards, Mars won in the six categories for which he was nominated: Album of the Year and Best R&B Album for 24K Magic, Record of the Year for the title track and Song of The Year, Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for "That's What I Like". 24K Magic also won a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, for the work of the album's engineers. In the same year, Mars won several awards in R&B categories at the Billboard and iHeartRadio Music Awards.
Mars worked on Chic's studio album It’s About Time (2018), but the song is expected to be featured on Chic's next studio album, according to musician Nile Rodgers. "Wake Up in the Sky" is a collaborative single, issued in September 2018, between American rappers Gucci Mane and Kodak Black, along with Mars. It peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. On February 15, 2019, Cardi B and Mars released a single together called "Please Me". It peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100. The single also reached the top 20 of Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Five months later, British pop singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, American country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton, and Mars released a single titled "Blow" for the former's fourth album, No.6 Collaborations Project (2019). On October 16, 2019, Mars posted a picture, on his Twitter, of himself in a recording studio, possibly indicating new solo music. On February 2020, it was announced a partnership between Mars and Disney for a "music-themed theatrical narrative", in which the singer will both star in and produce the movie. On March 26, 2020, a representative of Mars stated the latter was "in the creative process of working on his next album."
As a child, Mars spent time impersonating Elvis Presley. This playact had a major impact on his musical evolution; he later reflected:
I'm a big fan of 1950s Elvis when he would go on stage and scare people because he was a force and girls would go nuts! You can say the same thing for Prince or The Police. It's just guys who know that people are here to see a show, so I watch those guys and I love studying them because I’m a fan.
He also impersonated Michael Jackson who is a major inspiration of his. Mars was raised on his father's doo-wop collection — "simple four-chord songs that got straight to the point" and on Ventures, Chuck Berry, Carlos Santana, Frankie Lymon, Little Anthony, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. The hip-hop productions by The Neptunes and Timbaland, that were played on the radio, also influenced him.
Mars' musical style gravitated initially towards R&B since he was influenced by artists such as Keith Sweat, Jodeci, and R. Kelly. As a child he also took notice of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Boyz II Men, Teddy Riley and Babyface. At the same time, he also listened to 1950s rock 'n' roll, doo-wop music, and Motown. In high school, he listened to classic rock groups such as Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles, whose influences can be heard in Mars' work, as well as singers with high voices, like Stevie Wonder and Freddie Mercury. Bob Marley, and local bands in Hawaii, were a major influence and account for his reggae roots. Hip-hop acts like Jay-Z, The Roots, and Cody Chesnutt were among some of Mars' favourites, and have influenced his composition skills. Each of these musical genres has influenced Mars' musical style; he observed that: "It's not easy to [create] songs with that mixture of rock and soul and hip-hop, and there's only a handful of them." Mars also admires classical music.
Other artists Mars has said inspired his work include: Janet Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Sly Stone, Carlos Santana, George Clinton, and Usher. Mars has also stated that he is a fan of: Alicia Keys, Jessie J, Jack White, The Saturdays, and Kings of Leon.
Musical style and themes
Mars' music has been noted for displaying a wide variety of styles, musical genres, and influences, including pop, R&B, funk, soul, reggae, hip hop, and rock. His debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, is predominantly a pop and R&B record, influence by most of the genres mentioned above. Many of his songs on the album, reflect "feel-good", carefree, and optimistic sentiments. However, darker subjects are addressed in his songs, detailing failed relationships, pain and loneliness. His subsequent release, Unorthodox Jukebox, as with his debut album, is infused with different influences including disco, funk, rock, reggae and soul, as well as balladry. Lyrically, the album is different from the former, addressing traditional notions of romance, male chauvinism, and sexuality. The explicit content in the song "Gorilla" caused a controversy in Australia. Mars' third album, 24K Magic, was significantly influenced by R&B, soul, funk, pop and new jack swing. Lyrically, the album involves themes of money and sex. Mars has explained his writing process: "I don't sit down and think, 'I'm going to write a song', since "You can’t force creativeness" as inspiration comes out of the blue in different places. Ideas occur suddenly to him; and occasionally, he is able to materialize them into lyrics.
Mars claims that his work with other artists has influenced his musical style: "Nothin' on You had a Motown vibe, Billionaire was a reggae acoustic guitar-driven song, though one of my favourites is the CeeLo Green song. I don't think anyone else could've sung that song. And there's Just the Way You Are. If you know my story, you know I love all different genres of music." Mars states that growing up in Hawaii influenced his style, giving the songs a reggae sound. He explains: "In Hawaii some of the biggest radio stations are reggae. That music brings people together. It's not urban music or pop music. It's just songs. That's what makes it cross over so well. The song comes first."
Philip Lawrence, one of his music partners from The Smeezingtons, stated: "What people don't know is there's a darker underbelly to Bruno Mars." Nevertheless, most of his music is romantic and Mars himself says: "I blame that on me singing to girls back in high school".
Mars possesses a three octave tenor vocal range. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commented that he is one of the most "versatile and accessible singers in pop, with a light, soul-influenced voice that's an easy fit in a range of styles, a universal donor", while Tim Sendra from AllMusic described Mars' vocals on Doo-Wops & Hooligans as "the kind of smooth instrument that slips into your ear like honey." Jody Rosen from Rolling Stone called Mars a "nimble, soulful vocalist" on Unorthodox Jukebox. Jim Farber of the New York Daily News praised Mars' voice due to "the purity, cream and range of mid-period Michael Jackson" in a review of a concert promoting Unorthodox Jukebox. On 24K Magic, Consequence of Sound's Karen Gwen afirmed that Mars showed his "pips" and pushed his vocals to the limit. She described his voice as a "clear, unapologetic tenor" being a "blessing" nowadays. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times found 24K Magic to show Mars' vocal ability from tenderness to "the more forceful side of his voice". Mars is also able to play drums, guitar, keyboard, bass, piano, and ukulele. Mars usually plays the instrumentation or part of it, on his albums and on the songs he composes for other artists.
Mars is known for his retro showmanship which is widely acclaimed by tour critics and reviewers. Deanna Ramsay of The Jakarta Post described Mars as a "truly global star". Boston Herald's Jim Sullivan compared Mars' shownmaship to Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Kevin Johnson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called Mars a "consummate performer." The Boston Globe's Sarah Rodman said that Mars shows an "indefatigable ecstatic approach to performing" and "classic showmanship." In the same vein, Jim Farber of the Daily News stated of the halftime show at Super Bowl XLVIII that Mars "brings old-school showmanship to dynamic performance." The singer took its inspiration by playing videotapes of Elvis, James Brown and Michael Jackson when he was younger. Nowadays, before the shows, he watches Brown's T.A.M.I. Show, James Hendrix's Live at Woodstock or Prince performing "Purple Rain" (1984).
During The Doo-Wops & Hooligans Tour, Ara Jansan from The West Australian called the performance "one of the most creative and exciting displays of musical artistry" she had witnessed in a long time and noticed the concert attracted a wide-ranging audience of all age groups. The Oregonian's Robert Ham noticed, on the Hooligans in Wondaland Tour, that the singer not only grabbed the spectators' attention throughout the entire concert, but he also sang every note by himself with noticeable guitar skills. During the Moonshine Jungle Tour, Jason Lipshutz of Billboard described Mars' performance as "entertaining ... keeping smiles plastered on the faces of his onlookers, and he does a better job at it than almost anyone working in music right now". Rolling Stone magazine placed Mars at number 35 on its list of 50 Best Live Acts Right Now in 2013; "Anyone from the age of 5 to 95 can walk out of a Bruno Mars concert feeling like the show was designed just for them. Mars walks the old-school walk and talks the sexy talk, but he also nails the hits, leads a super-energetic nine-piece soul band, and rips a mean drum solo". NFL executives Sarah Moll and Tracy Perlman stated that: "If you go to his concerts, it's 11-year-old girls to 65-year-old women—it's everyone", after seeing The Moonshine Jungle tour several times during the summer of 2013. The 24K Magic World Tour, was praised by critics due to Mars' showmanship, guitar skills and stage production. The tour won two Pollstar awards, two Billboard Music Awards and one TEC Award.
Mars' concerts feature The Hooligans, a band that includes: a guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist, and a horn section. They also serve as dancers and background singers. Critics noted the difference the backup band and the arrangements made to the sound of the live versions of the songs compared to those on the album. Mars' shows feature all-band choreographed dancing arrangements, which include footwork that is inspired by James Brown and the splits. His shows are heavily influenced by the disco era with a soul revue-inspired set. In addition, long, mellow, and soft interludes that echo the smooth contemporary R&B style which was popular during the 1990s are also part of the show. His set list blends several genres of music such as: pop, doo-wop, funk, R&B, soul and reggae. His first two headlining concert tours included various covers. Mars' shows usually feature pyrotechnics, strobe and laser lighting, and he typically plays the drums and guitar.
The Hooligans – Band members
- Bruno Mars – lead vocals, guitar (2010–present)
- Phredley Brown – keyboard (2010–2012), lead guitar (2012–present), backing vocals (2010–present)
- Jamareo Artis – bass guitar (2010–present)
- Eric Hernandez – drums (2010–present)
- Kameron Whalum – trombone (2010–present), backing vocals (2018–present)
- Dwayne Dugger – saxophone (2010–present), keyboards (2017–present)
- James King – trumpet (2010–present), backing vocals (2018–present)
- John Fossit – keyboard (2012–present)
- Kenji Chan – lead guitar (2010–2012)
- Philip Lawrence – backing vocals (2010–2018)
In 2011, Mars appears in two commercials for Bench as part of their clothing line "Bench On Mars" and "Bruno Mars Gets Khaki in Bench". He and model Joan Smalls were photographed in 50's influenced suits in Puerto Rico as part of the clothing line "La Isla Bonita" for Vogue. On May 12, 2013, Mars tweeted a picture of himself using an electronic cigarette. On May 30, 2013, a press release was published reporting Mars' investment in the NJOY Electronic Cigarette Company, "in order to quit smoking for his mother", since the singer "believes in the product and the company's mission."
In 2014, Bruno Mars teamed up with three partners to launch the "Selvarey Rum" brand which includes Selvarey White, made of blended three and five-year aged Panamanian rums and the five-year-old rum flavored with chocolate, Selvarey Cacao. In the same year, Mars decided to invest in Chromatik, which makes digital versions of sheet music for the web and iPad. Mars said: "I love that Chromatik will bring better music education into schools" ... "[a]nd I'm happy to be a part of it."
In 2014, it was announced that Mars had partnered with the Hawai'i Community Foundation and the GRAMMY Foundation to establish a GRAMMY Camp Scholarship Fund, in order to support the next generation of music makers with funds to provide financial assistance for qualified needs-based applicants from Hawaii. On September 27, 2017, Mars expanded his camp scholarship in order to include applicants from all over the United States. The singer established the partnership in honor of his mother.
A day before a concert in the Philippines Mars donated $100,000 (US) to the orphans of Bantay Bata, who were among the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, in order to raise the morale of those who lost their families and homes. Mars performed at the Make It Right gala, whose campaign goal is to "help build homes for people in need." He also performed at the Robin Hood Foundation's 2014 annual benefit in New York, whose goal is to "fight poverty in New York City by supporting nonprofit organizations with financial and technical assistance."
In 2017, Mars donated 1 million dollars from the show at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan to help the victims of the Flint water crisis. The singer participated in the "Somos Una Voz" relief initiative, created by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, in order to help survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Mexico's 7.1 earthquake. In November 2018, Mars donated 24,000 meals in aid to the Salvation Army Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division's 48th annual Thanksgiving Dinner. In 2020, the singer donated $1 million to the MGM Resorts Foundation, in order to assist MGM employees with financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Awards and achievements
Bruno Mars has earned numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including eleven Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, four Guinness World Record nine American and 10 Soul Train Music Awards. In 2011, Mars made Time magazine's 100 list, while his former songwriting and record producing team, The Smeezingtons, earned several accolades. At the 2018 Grammys, Mars became the second artist to win Record and Song of the Year with two different songs from the same album. In 2019, Billboard placed him on number 41 of its list of Greatest of All Time Artists and was number 14 on the list of Top Touring Artists of the 2010s decade. In the same year, iHeartRadio Canada placed Mars on theirs "Icons of the Decade" of the 2010s, while Insider gave him an honorable mention as he didn't made the cut for the artists that defined the 2010s list.
Mars' "When I Was Your Man" became the second number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 to feature exclusively piano and vocals. He is the first male artist to place two titles as a lead act in the Hot 100's top 10 simultaneously. In total, he has had seven number-one singles on the Hot 100 chart. In 2018, Mars matched Beyonce and Mariah Carey as the only artists with three Top Five singles on the Billboard Hot 100 from their first three studio albums. In the same year, he became the first solo male artist with nine number ones on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart. Mars, Ed Sheeran and Jewel are the only artists with two songs to spend at least half a year on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10.
According to the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI), "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade" are two of the most successful digital singles of all time, with sales of 12.5 million and 10.2 million, respectively. This contributed to Mars becoming the biggest selling artist of 2012. His songs "Just The Way You Are", "Grenade", "Locked Out Of Heaven", and "When I Was Your Man" have each sold over 4 million digital copies, making him the first male artist to do so as a lead singer. Six of his singles are counted among the best-selling singles of all time. Worldwide, Mars has sold 26 million albums as of 2016, and a total of 200 million singles as of 2020.
Due to the ticket reselling which occurred during the week after Mars' performance at the Super Bowl, and in order to limit that kind of profiteering, Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim introduced Senate Resolution 12, also known as the Bruno Mars Act. It limits all ticket purchases within 48 hours of the on-sale date to the physical box office. This ensures that anyone who comes to the box office to buy tickets for a show should almost certainly be guaranteed a ticket and discourages ticket scalping. The State Senate in Hawaii passed the law. However, the bill died at the conference committee.
Family and relationships
Mars's brother, Eric, has continuously served as the drummer for his backup band, The Hooligans. Their sisters, Tiara, Tahiti, and Presley, as well as their cousin Jaime, make up the all-girl music group The Lylas. When she was young, Jamie moved in with the siblings due to parental issues. Mars began dating model Jessica Caban in 2011. The two remain a couple as of 2019[update], residing together in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills with a Rottweiler named "Geronimo".
Mars returned from an overseas gig in May 2013 when he learned in the Los Angeles airport that his mother was gravely ill. He immediately got on a plane to Hawaii. His mother died the next day. On June 2, 2013, a publicist for Atlantic Records confirmed to the Associated Press that Mars' mother had suffered a brain aneurysm. She had died on Saturday, June 1, 2013, at age 55, at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Later, on June 7, 2013, the singer wrote about the loss of his mother on Twitter: "So thankful for all the love during the most difficult time in my life. I'll be back on my feet again soon. That's what mom wants, she told me."
In 2013, Mars told Rolling Stone that record executives "had trouble categorizing him", as they were clueless which radio stations would play his songs, and which people (black or white) were going to buy his albums. In the same month, he confessed that "Nothin' on You" was rejected by a "music industry decision-maker" because of his race. That experience made him feel like a "mutant", and he says that was his lowest point. "Even with that song in my back pocket to seal the deal, things like that are coming out of people's mouths. It made me feel like I wasn't even in the room." In 2018, Mars was accused during The Grapevine, a series that explores African-American issues, of cultural appropriation on social media for using his racial ambiguity to profit from black music, and was criticized for mimicking the sound of past artists. Various black celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Charlie Wilson, 9th Wonder, Marjua Estevez, and Stereo Williams dismissed the accusations. Mars has spoken often about his influences and has given credit to several black artists, such as Babyface, Teddy Riley, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.
On January 28, 2014, Demetrius Orlandus Proctor filed a lawsuit, claiming he holds the copyright for the Travie McCoy and Mars' track "Billionaire". Proctor claimed he owned the copyright to the music and lyrics of the track since March 31, 2011, though the song was released a year before. As evidence, Proctor has submitted a United States Copyright Office registration certificate for "Frisky Vol. 1 to 30 (Tapes)", issued in 2000. Proctor accused McCoy and Mars of "willful and intentional" infringement of copyright, seeking the destruction of all copies of the recording. Proctor claims he has exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute the song.
Mark Ronson and Mars' "Uptown Funk" has received various accusations and lawsuits over copyright infringement. In 2015, similarities with "Oops Up Side Your Head" (1979) by The Gap Band led them, along with keyboardist Rudolph Taylor, and producer Lonnie Simmons to be added as co-writers of "Uptown Funk" and receive publishing royalties. In the same year, Serbian artist Viktorija argued that "Uptown Funk" infringed on one of her tracks. She decided not to sue Mars and Ronson. In 2016, electro-funk band Collage sued Ronson and Mars for copying their single, "Young Girls" (1983), while The Sequence, a rap group, claimed it infringed their single "Funk You Up" (1979) and sued a year later. In 2017, Lastrada Entertainment filed a lawsuit due to similarities with "More Bounce to the Ounce" (1980) by Zapp. The company seeks damage, a jury trial and prevent Ronson from profiting with "Uptown Funk". In 2018, the Collage and Zapp lawsuit were dropped, it was not revealed if there was any financial settlement.
Billboard estimated Mars' earnings around $18,839,681, making him the twelfth highest paid musician of 2013. Forbes magazine began reporting on Bruno Mars' earnings in 2014, calculating that the $60 million earned between June 2013 to June 2014, for his music and tour, which made him thirteenth on the list of the Celebrity 100 list. In June 2017, Mars ranked at sixth on the Forbes World's Highest Paid Celebrities, earning an estimated $39 million throughout June 2016 – June 2017. In July 2018, Forbes announced that Mars was America's highest-paid musician of 2017, with an estimated total of $100 million. This, in turn, placed him at number 11 on the Celebrity 100 list as well as being his highest yearly earnings to date. In 2019, he was placed at number 54 on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, with estimated earnings of $51.5 million throughout June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019.
Tours and residencies
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