This recent Bruno Mars performance shows him doing the flex to the highest Slay level!
Mars is one of six children and came from a musical family which exposed him to a diverse mix of genres including: reggae, rock, hip hop, and R&B. His mother was both a singer and a dancer, and his father performed Little Richard rock and roll music. Mars’ uncle was an Elvis impersonator, and also encouraged three-year-old Mars to perform on stage. Mars performed songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers, and The Temptations. At age four, Mars began performing five days a week with his family’s band, The Love Notes, and became known on the island for his impersonation of Presley. In 1990, Mars was featured in MidWeek as “Little Elvis”, and later appeared in a cameo role in the film Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), and performed in the halftime show of the 1990 Aloha Bowl.
The time Mars spent impersonating Presley had a major impact on his musical evolution and performing techniques. He later began playing guitar after being inspired by Jimi Hendrix. In 2010, he also acknowledged his Hawaiian roots and musical family as an influence, explaining: “Growing up in Hawaii made me the man I am. I used to do a lot of shows in Hawaii with my father’s band. Everybody in my family sings, everyone plays instruments…I’ve just been surrounded by it.” When he attended President Theodore Roosevelt High School he performed in a group called The School Boys.
After Mars’ sister in Los Angeles played Mars’ demo for Mike Lynn, (the A&R at Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment), Lynn summoned Mars to Los Angeles. In 2003, shortly after graduating from high school at the age of 17, Mars moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue a musical career. He adopted his stage name from the nickname his father gave him, adding “Mars” at the end because: “I felt like I didn’t have [any] pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I’m out of this world, so I was like I guess I’m from Mars.” Moreover, the adoption of his stage name was also due to “the music industry tried to pigeonhole him as another Latino artist, and even convinced him to sing in Spanish.”
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Mars signed with Motown Records in 2004, in a deal that “went nowhere”, and had a conversation with Will.i.am’s management which turned out to be fruitless. However, Mars’ experience with Motown proved to be beneficial to his career when he met songwriter and producer Philip Lawrence, who was also signed to the label.
After Mars was dropped by the label less than a year after being signed, he stayed in Los Angeles and landed a music publishing deal in 2005 with Steve Lindsey and Cameron Strang at Westside Independent.
Lindsey showed Mars and Jeff Bhasker (who Mars met through Mike Lynn) the ins and outs of writing pop music, and acted as a mentor helping them to hone their craft. Bhasker explained that Lindsey would “mentor us, and kind of give us lectures as to what a hit pop song is, because you can have talent and music ability, but understanding what makes a hit pop song is a whole other discipline.”
Mars played cover songs around Los Angeles in a band with Bhasker and Eric Hernandez, (Mars’ brother), who is now The Hooligans’ drummer.
When Lawrence was first told he should meet Mars he was reluctant to do so since he did not even have money for bus fare. Keith Harris, drummer for The Black Eyed Peas, told him: “Whatever it costs you to get out here, I’ll reimburse you.” Lawrence responded: “Just give me five dollars back for the bus.” The pair began collaborating, writing songs for Mars, but they received many rejections from labels. On the verge of giving up, they received a call from Brandon Creed, who was looking for songs for a reunited Menudo. He liked their song “Lost”, which was written for Mars. The duo did not want to give the song away, but when they were offered $20,000 for it they agreed. The sale of this song allowed them to continue working, and Mars and Lawrence decided that they would write and produce songs together for other artists. Eventually, Creed became Mars’ manager for nine years.
In 2006, Lawrence introduced Mars to his future A&R manager at Atlantic Records, Aaron Bay-Schuck. After hearing him play a couple of songs on the guitar, Bay-Schuck wanted to sign him immediately, but it took roughly three years for Atlantic records to finally sign Mars to the label, because they felt it was too early and that he still needed to develop as an artist.
Before becoming a successful solo artist, Mars was an acknowledged music producer, writing songs for Alexandra Burke, Travie McCoy, Adam Levine, Brandy, Sean Kingston, and Flo Rida. He also co-wrote the Sugababes’ hit song “Get Sexy” and provided backing vocals on their album Sweet 7. His first recorded appearance as a singer was on Far East Movement’s second studio album Animal, on the track “3D”. He was also featured on pastor and hip hop artist Jaeson Ma’s debut single “Love” in August 2009. He reached prominence as a solo artist after being featured on, and co-writing, B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”; both songs peaked within the top ten on many charts worldwide.
He said of them: “I think those songs weren’t meant to be full-sung songs. If I’d sung all of “Nothin’ on You”, it might’ve sounded like some ’90s R&B.” Following this success, Mars released his debut extended play (EP), titled It’s Better If You Don’t Understand, on May 11, 2010. The EP peaked at number 99 on the Billboard 200 and a music video was released for the song “The Other Side” featuring singers CeeLo Green and B.o.B. Mars collaborated with Green once more in August 2010 composing his single “Fuck You” with The Smeezingtons.
On September 19, 2010, Mars was arrested in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Casino for possession of cocaine. While talking to a police officer, Mars reportedly declared that what he did was “foolish” and that “he has never used drugs before.” Mars pleaded guilty to felony drug possession and in return was told that the charges would be erased from his criminal record as long as he stayed out of trouble for a year. He paid a $2,000 fine, did 200 hours of community service, and completed a drug counseling course.
Nevertheless, in a cover story for GQ magazine in 2013, Mars said “I was young, man! I was in f—ing Vegas…I wasn’t thinking”, he added: “I was given a number one record and I’m out doing dumb sh–.” Mars confessed that he lied to the authorities about having done cocaine before, saying “I don’t know where that came from”, adding: “I was really intoxicated. I was really drunk. So a lot of that is a big blur, and I try every day to forget and keep pushing.”
On March 22, 2012, it was announced that Mars had signed a worldwide publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis US. In September 2012, when interviewed by Billboard, Mars stated that his album would be more musically varied and refused to “pick a lane”, adding: “I listen to a lot of music, and I want to have the freedom and luxury to walk into a studio and say, ‘Today I want to do a hip-hop, R&B, soul or rock record’ “. He announced the album title Unorthodox Jukebox along with the ten songs which would make the final cut on the album, and the title of the first single, “Locked out of Heaven”, which was released on October 1, 2012. The lead single from Unorthodox Jukebox reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and in Canada. It charted in the top ten in several countries worldwide.
In December 2013, he was named Artist of the Year by Billboard and ranked number one on the 2014 Forbes list 30 Under 30, a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30. In addition, he was thirteenth on the 2014 list of The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities with estimated earnings of $60 million.
In a cover story for Entertainment Weekly, Mars stated that the song “Nothin’ on You” was rejected by a “music industry decision-maker” (a person he won’t name) because of his race. That experience made him feel like a “mutant”, and he says that was his lowest point. “Even with that song in my back pocket to seal the deal, things like that are coming out of people’s mouths. It made me feel like I wasn’t even in the room.” In April 2013, in a cover story for GQ magazine, Mars confessed that he changed his surname because people in the music industry took him as another Latino artist, and even tried to convince him to sing in Spanish saying: “Your last name’s Hernandez, maybe you should do the Latin music, this Spanish music… Enrique [Iglesias] is so hot right now”. Nevertheless, Mars used his childhood nickname Bruno and changed his surname to Mars, in an effort to “avoid being stereotyped”.
During a performance on November 21, 2013, Kanye West gave his opinion regarding the MTV Video Music Awards, that was held on August 25, 2013. West said, “Bruno Mars won all the motherfucking awards and shit”. He continued, “What I care about is if you’re an artist and you work hard as fuck and the streets say that you deserve that shit. Then can’t no motherfucking networks try to gas everybody up so they can sell some product with the prettiest motherfucker out”. Nevertheless, on February 26, 2015, he publicly apologized to Bruno Mars on Twitter while asking him to sing a hook on a song that he co-produced. West asked Tyler, the Creator to direct the music video. Mars confirmed that West called him and apologized.