The universal appeal of Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars's rise to pop stardom lies in appealing to a variety of pop tastes.

Bruno Mars will perform in Dubai tomorrow. Carlo Allegri / Reuters
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The tour

After a few months of resurrected rock-dogs and 1980s and 1990s pop icons, it’s good to see current and modern pop reaching the UAE’s stages. Armed with two albums worth of hits, Mars and his backing band The Hooligans should send fans screaming with his winning blend of R&B and soul sounds.

Little Elvis

Born in Honolulu, the 25-year-old, real name Peter Gene Hernandez, grew up as part of a family of musicians. Born to a Filipino-Spanish mother and Puerto Rican-Hungarian father, the nickname Bruno was given by his dad, who believed Mars’s baby face resembled the wrestler Bruno Sammartino. The Mars moniker was self-applied as a teenager. Mars took the stage with his family as early as 3 years old as they busted out soul and R&B covers by the likes of Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers and The Temptations. It was his uncle’s Elvis imper-sonations that made a strong impression, though. Mars’s early years impersonating The King had him branded as Little Elvis by the Hawaiian entertainment rag Midweek and led to a cameo role in the 1992 film Honeymoon in Vegas.

The songwriter

Moving to Los Angeles in 2003 to begin a fully-fledged music career, Mars scored a record deal with the R&B giants Motown and eventually Atlantic Records. Both moves proved to be bittersweet as Mars spent six years writing for other artists before being able to showcase his own sound. That said, word of his talent spread in the industry after writing tunes for the likes of Adam Levine, Brandy, Sean Kingston and Flo Rida.

The singer

After making a name as part of the song-production team The Smeezingtons, Mars finally stepped into his own in 2009 with a guest appearance in Animal by the Far East Movement before turning heads with hook-ups with Travie McCoy (Billionaire) and the ubiquitous Nothing on You with the rapper B.o.B. Mars’s talents really shined from 2010. His debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans was home to the upbeat hit Just the Way You Are and the dramatic Grenade. The year also saw the release of the co-written hit Forget You by Cee Lo Green. Last year’s follow-up album Unorthodox Jukebox spawned the American chart-topper Locked Out of Heaven.

The artist

The years spent biding his time writing for others is doing wonders for Mars’s career. Where his peers’ songwriting styles can be often pegged from the earliest releases, Mars’s restless muse has him incorporating more flavours including rock, hip-hop and doo-wop to his R&B and soul template. Interviews find Mars listing an eclectic array of influences from Elvis Presley and Little Richard to Prince and Jack White. Speaking to New York Daily News in 2010, Mars expressed how elements of reggae always seem to creep up in his works. “In Hawaii, some of the biggest radio stations are reggae,” he said. “The local bands are heavily influenced by Bob Marley. 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.”

Don’t forget Paloma Faith

Make sure to arrive early to catch the promising UK talent Paloma Faith. As well as the retro-pop sounds, the 24-year-old singer will give the crowd plenty to look at courtesy of her knack for wearing theatrical costumes that can be best described as birdlike. Her set should be a more sensual affair with the slinky 30 Minute Love Affair and the sparkling ballad Just Be set to be a fine showcase for her husky voice. The way her career is progressing, it might not be long before she is able to headline the venue on her own.

Bruno Mars and Paloma Faith perform tomorrow at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. The only remaining tickets belong to the VIP Lounge and cost Dh1,495. However, each ticket sold puts you in a draw to meet Bruno Mars backstage. Winners will be announced at the lounge at 8pm. Doors open at 6pm. For more details, go to

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