The song at #77 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Locked Out of Heaven” by the amazing Bruno Mars. Born Peter Gene Hernandez in Honolulu, Hawaii (but given the nickname “Bruno” by his father at the age of two, because of his resemblance to professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino) Bruno Mars is a hyper-talented singer, songwriter, producer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist dynamo with a style and showmanship reminiscent of Michael Jackson, James Brown and Little Richard all rolled into one. He comes from a musical family which exposed him to a diverse mix of music genres. His mother was both a singer and a dancer, his father performed Little Richard rock and roll, and his uncle was an Elvis impersonator, and encouraged three-year-old Mars to perform on stage. By the time he was four, he began performing five days a week with his family’s band The Love Notes, and became known in Hawaii for his Elvis Presley impersonations.
Mars moved to L.A. in 2003 when he was 18, and a year later signed a recording contract with Motown Records, but the deal went nowhere. Success eluded him until 2010, with the release of the successful singles “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B and “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, both of which featured his vocals. Soon after, Mars struck gold with his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans, which generated the hit singles “Just the Way You Are”, “Grenade”, and “The Lazy Song”. In 2012, he followed up with his hugely-successful second album Unorthodox Jukebox , the lead single of which was the fantastic reggae/pop/funk song “Locked Out of Heaven”. Among the producers who worked with Mars on the album and single were Jeff Bhasker (who also worked with fun. on Some Nights) and Mark Ronson (who produced the smash hit “Uptown Funk” that Mars sang vocals on).
“Locked Out of Heaven” was a massive hit, becoming his fourth single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it held the top spot for six weeks. It also topped the Canadian singles chart for three weeks, and received mostly positive reviews by music critics. Tim Sendra of AllMusic described the song as “a breezy mashup of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’, The Police, and Dire Straits“, while Paul MacInnes of The Guardian called it “a brazen but successful welding of Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing’ and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ by the Police.” In fact, Mars stated that The Police were a strong influence for him in writing the song, which addresses the rapturous feelings of a loving and sexual relationship, something all of us can identify with. And I especially love the pounding drumbeats just before each chorus.