Bruno Mars is a wonderful singer. He has a really, really nice voice, even by the standards of professional musicians: there’s an appealing throatiness to his delivery that sets him apart in my mind from your standard-issue male R&B vocalist. He’s also a songwriter of no mean talent, being at least partially responsible for Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You” and Flo-Rida’s “Right Round” in addition to his own blossoming career. And although he’s too lethargic in this video for me to comment on his dancing abillity, he does fill out the fourth corner of the traditional pop star parallelogram pretty nicely, i.e. he’s easy on the eyes, making him one of the very, very few to successfully rock a post-millenial hi-top fade.
Oh, and if the lyrics to his chart-topping “Grenade” are any indication, he’s kind of an asshole.
The song’s general topic is rejected love — a fantastically durable pop-music topos that we could trace through Mars’ own “Fuck You” to Eamon’s “Fuck It,” to Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” to Mary Wells’ “You Beat Me to the Punch,” to Dion and the Belmonts’ “Runaround Sue,” to Cole Porter’s “So In Love,” to Schumann & Heine’s “Ich Grolle Nicht,” and right on back to medieval troubadours like Raimbaut de Vacqueiras. (That’s as far as my knowledge goes, but feel free to post your examples from Ovid in the comments.) Now, most of these songs fall into two basic models. There’s the straight-up torch song, which pretty much says “You’re so wonderful — I want to be with you so much — I wish you wanted to be with me too.” Then there’s what I like to call the kiss-off song, which says something more like “You’re so horrible — I can’t believe I ever wanted to be with you — kindly die in a fire.” The particular version of rejected love that Mars is peddling, though, is a combination of the two: “You’re so horrible — so very horrible — but let’s date anyway, okay?”
That’s the basic sentiment, and it’s already vaguely repellent. The specific details only make it worse, as we’ll see.