Review: Bruno Mars channels '90s R&B grooves on '24K Magic'

SANDY COHEN
Associated Press
This cover image released by Atlantic Records shows, "24K Magic," the latest release by Bruno Mars. Mars, 31, said the album was inspired by his love for R&B acts like New Edition, Boyz II Men and Jodeci. (Atlantic Records via AP)

Bruno Mars, "24K Magic" (Atlantic)

Bruno Mars pays homage to his musical influences with a groovy, R&B-inspired collection that sounds straight outta the '90s. "24K Magic" is a party album that recalls Michael Jackson, James Brown, New Edition and retro boy-band harmonies. It's just a shame it's only 34 minutes long.

Mars has said he hopes his first album in four years inspires listeners to dance, and "24K Magic" succeeds. The title track (and hit single) sets the toe-tapping tone for the dance-party groove that follows. On "Chunky," Mars sings, "If you ain't here to party, take your ass back home." And even the late Godfather of Soul would shake his hips to "Perm," where Bruno channels his best Brown over trumpet-tinged funk. "Finesse" is a different kind of throwback, all New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe.

The album plays like a dance party, with slow jams built in to catch your breath. Mars reaches for a Jackson-inspired falsetto on the ballad "Versace on the Floor" and goes for more of a Boyz II Men vibe on "Calling All My Lovelies."

It's a shift in direction for the multi-Grammy Award-winning entertainer — more R&B and less pop than the 2014 hit "Uptown Funk" or Mars' 2012 album, "Unorthodox Jukebox." Mars replaced the Smeezingtons, the production team comprising himself and two partners that worked on his first two solo albums, with producers Shampoo Press & Curl, who give the songs on "24K Magic" a lush, wall-of-sound quality.

The result is a groovy party that ends too soon.

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AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is at www.twitter.com/APSandy .