US No. 1 This Week: Bruno Mars – Grenade

Oh, my dear Bruno. Janelle Monae called, she wants her hair back; and 1990 just called me, requesting the immediate return of their joke. Duly noted. Although I now have a fair understanding of why he wears that insufferable Justin Timberlake hat.

A good old heartbroken R&Bish ballad, ‘Grenade’ is a pretty cool slice of modern pop. Except that this song is worryingly obsessive. I don’t think we need to really take anything he says here too literally, but expressing your desire to “take a grenade” for someone – an odd enough turn of phrase since grenades explode based on a delayed timer rather than upon impact, so the whole idea of ‘taking’ a grenade for someone doesn’t really suit as well as the old cliché, the bullet – is taking a bit beyond, “Awww, he cares about her!” and into, “He has a camera implanted in a novelty-sized teddy bear in her bedroom” territory. SEMANTICS!

Now, I know there’s no sense in over-analysing a non-existent linear thread between an artist’s two separate songs, but doesn’t this seem like a really hilarious single to come off the back of ‘Just the Way You Are’? From, “You’re like, really pretty and I don’t mention your personality at all because you’re like, really PRETTY” to, “You kind of suck but I’m like, toooootally in luuurve witchu gurrrl”. It’s almost like he discovered just a little too late that the hot chick was actually a massive bitch.

An alternative interpretation (thanks to the video), is that the girl in question is MUSIC, which is so deep, what a poetic soul, etc. Since he drags that piano around for no apparent reason and then is hit by a train because that is a thing that Bruno Mars does, perhaps he goes “THROUGH ALL THIS PAAAAAIN” for his art, you know? I get it, Bruno, I really do (but really, I know he’s taking it to serenade his lady friend). Although, I don’t really get the confrontation with the latino gang members. Seems like a bit of a non sequitur. But that’s the video, it’s fairly immaterial.

I like the almost combative, miltary-esque drums and how it supports the narrative of the lyrics, though. That’s a clever touch from The Smeezingtons, the production team responsible for the song, of which Mars is a member. The unfortunately named Smeezingtons have also contributed writing and/or production credits to a few smash hits before, namely the Flo Rida song ‘Right Round’, which allowed Ke$ha to ride the Syphilis Train right into our living rooms, and what may very well be the pop song of the year, Cee Lo Green’s ‘Fuck You’.

Honestly, I don’t mind this song. I prefer Bruno Mars’ voice when he’s singing less forcefully a la ‘Just the Way You Are’ and B.O.B’s ‘Nothin’ on You’, the vocal hook of which was stuck in my head for some time. The song builds very nicely to the climactic (read: louder and at the end) chorus, but not much varies along the course of the song. It’s very rinse, repeat, not that that will ever really affect its success as a pop song. At the time of writing this, the video has over 43 million views of YouTube, so clearly something has been done right. But I don’t really buy the chorus’ hook. Normally a “Yeah, yeah, yeah” sung by backup vocalists will stick with me very easily but it doesn’t do a whole lot here. The more I listen, the catchier I find it though. It didn’t grab me immediately as, say, Dirty Talk did, but it got there, which is fine enough.

It’s a very melodramatic song (with a video to match). But the pop market thrives off of exaggerated emotion, whether it’s heartbreak, lust, desire to party, and so on. And after all, the sales figures really don’t lie. This isn’t the first time ‘Grenade’ has hit number 1 on the Billboard charts. He’s doing damn well for himself, and with a bevy of hits behind him, I won’t be surprised if Bruno Mars is around for quite some time yet.

Rating? A solid 7/10.

One thought on “US No. 1 This Week: Bruno Mars – Grenade

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