Bruno Mars (born Peter Hernandez) took his initial turns in the pop spotlight singing the sweetly melodic, breezy vocal hooks on B.o.B.’s “Nothing on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” both songs he co-wrote and co-produced. In his first major hit, “Just the Way You Are,” he went a less doo-wop route (despite the title of his debut full-length, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans”). No, the track is not a Billy Joel cover but a simple, seemingly guileless love song, written by the Smeezingtons — Mars’s production and writing group with Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine — along with Khalil Walton and Needlz.
Rapper Lupe Fiasco pops up in the remix, but the original version of this disarming pop number isn’t without a piquant hip-hop flavor, fueled by a frisky snare and a crackling vinyl sample. Background whistling references the lighthearted “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John. The lyrics aren’t extraordinary: “Yeah, I know, I know / When I compliment her / She won’t believe me / And it’s so, it’s so / Sad to think she don’t see what I see / But every time she asks me, ‘Do I look OK?’ / I say, / ‘When I see your face / There’s not a thing that I would change/ ‘Cause you’re amazing / Just the way you are.” But the sentiment is eternally winning, especially with ladies accustomed to being led around by their insecurities.
For this No. 1 platinum song, the Honolulu-born Mars aims to please. And the song is true to form for a singer-songwriter and producer who grew up impersonating Elvis Presley and rock-pop idols such as Michael Jackson, inspired by a ’50s rock fan father who ran a Waikiki memorabilia store devoted to the King.
For a little more dangerous song from Mars, look to the saucy viral hit he co-wrote for Cee-Lo Green, “F— You.” Or his risk-taking take in his latest single, “Grenade,”