Given how flawlessly he performs and how pristine his records sound, it’s no shocker that Bruno Mars is a perfectionist — but he holds himself to standards so high that some of his greatest hits nearly didn’t make the final cut.
In Rolling Stone’s new cover story, Mars invites the mag into the final stages of 24K Magic, his new album, so they can see how the sausage of his songs gets made. Turns out that while “Uptown Funk” is to credit for his superstar status and “Grenade” is the earworm that launched his career, both of those smashes were borderline unlistenable to the performer when he played the mixes back.
“That shit was in the trash can,” he says of “Uptown Funk,” playing through the original version of the tune for RS to prove his point. “We spent months on that chorus,” he says. “And then one day it was like, ‘Maybe we don’t have a chorus.’”
The rest of the feature reveals plenty about Mars’s process, as well as some fun anecdotes about some of his favorite collaborators: He calls Skrillex a “genius” (he worked on a 24K Magic track, which, surprise, Mars was adamant about perfecting), and recalls how Adele was like-minded when they were working together on “All I Ask,” a track from last year’s 25. Mars took issue with her word choice for a particular lyric: He thought it was weird that she insisted on singing “Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do” and said that no one actually refers to their significant other as a “lover,” but she wouldn’t budge on it. Like Mars, she knows perfect when she sees it, and he respects that.
“She was like, ‘Nope. That’s what it has to be.’ And she was right. It’s this grand word that makes the song bigger because no one says it. Because nobody talks like that, it pops out. It’s not ‘what boyfriends-and-girlfriends do’ – it’s this over-the-top ‘lovers.’ Sometimes I play it on the piano, and I look forward to singing that part. It’s fucking perfect.”
As for 24K Magic – which drops November 18 — expect more of what we saw on Saturday Night Live, i.e., ’80s and ’90s R&B that Mars first fell in love with on the dance floors of his youth.
“There’s nothing more joyous for me than those school dances,” Mars tells RS. “Slow-dancing at the Valentine’s Day banquet with the girl you have a crush on, and the DJ spins ‘Before I Let You Go’ by Blackstreet. And the shit is magical, and you think about it for the next eight months.”
Yup, super magical — and it’s worth its weight in 24k gold.