My first exposure to Bruno Mars was the hook for “Billionaire,” (NSFW, Fword) by Travie McCoy. McCoy is from Gym Class Heroes, who had the catchy but confusing “Cupid’s Chokehold.” The song turned Supertramp’s metaphorical disappointment about America’s failure to live up to its mythical promise into a narrative about disappointing one’s parents with poor choices in romantic partners. It was strange, but not necessarily bad.
Gym Class Heroes, I mean. Billionaire was awful. As much as the first few seconds grabbed me, thanks to Mars’ mettle, the song has a disturbing lack of authenticy. The rhymes are tight if vacuous. The phrase “Dunkin’ on his Delegates” is rhymed with “President,” which is pleasing. It’s that the arguments don’t support the thesis, I think. I truly believe that Bruno Mars wants to be a billionaire so freaking bad. But McCoy’s not on the same page, he’s just trying to be liked. Maybe that’s what you do on your too-soon solo album, but the glib jokester vibe undermines the sincerity of the hook. It seems exploitative.
I keep using the word sincerity to describe this Hawaiian hipster, but that might be speculation territory. The attribute I’m really getting at is credibility. Even when he belts goofy and improbable lyrics, I buy it.
But, getting back to McCoy’s pandering, It’s like when they go way overboard with the vernacular on KMEL and end up trying to make it seem like buying an expensive mattress at some discount is standard barber shop talk. (Chuy: “They got free pee-lows, mayne. Don’t miss the Sleep Train to your deluxe apartment in the sky!”) As far as promotional material goes, it’s a thin line between being accessible to the struggling and being really hungry for them. Sincerity is key.
Its been a couple months since I’ve been single so
You can call me Travie Claus minus the Ho Ho
Get it, hehe, I’d probably visit where Katrina hit
And damn sure do a lot more than FEMA did
To answer his question: no, I don’t “get it.” I really don’t know how Santa got dragged into this creepy, populist hackery. If you’re determined to delight middle schoolers with the phrase “ho ho,” it seems like processed snack foods would have been just fine. Clearly, anything goes for this couplet; it doesn’t have to relate at all to the being-broke-sucks theme.
Also, a word about “get it.” Patronizing. If you include it in your lyric, you’re making a bold statement about the intelligence & awareness of your listeners. It’s like “see what I did there?” in comedy, except that falling flat on your face in the middle of a song is, for a musician, discouraged. Here, it’s used inappropriately, as the lyric is about as unsubtle as Kanye West’s opinion of the Katrina debacle. When’s it okay? Like a running back, get it?/ man, I’m straight off the block.”
Negativity aside, I’ve always liked Bruno Mars. There were some off-putting gestures at first, but I think it’s just because he had to sort out how to survive in a world where Travie McCoy is famous and he’s not. I’m glad their fortunes have reversed. Mars means it when he sings, which is why he didn’t fit with Billionaire.
He can still have fun with that charming ukelele skanking. Check out the first song that popped into my head this morning: I had been hoping someone would rhyme Snuggie with Duggy.
… nothing at all!
- Pandora the explorer: 90’s joints
- Novacane gets (sic) with it