Mars' music has been noted for displaying a wide variety of styles and influences, including pop, rock, reggae, R&B, soul, and hip hop. Although Mars has been referenced as "soft" because of his penchant for using a falsetto voice, his co-producer Philip Lawrence says, "What people don't know is there's a darker underbelly to Bruno Mars." Mars himself says, "I blame that on me singing to girls back in high school." Jon Caramanica of The New York Times called him "one of the most versatile and accessible singers in pop, with a light, soul-influenced voice that’s an easy fit in a range of styles, a universal donor." Mars was initially influenced by R&B artists such as Keith Sweat, Jodeci and R. Kelly, as well as 1950s rock n roll and Motown. In high school, he began listening to classic rock groups such as The Police, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles. All of these genres of music have influenced Mars' musical style; he observed that "It’s not easy to [create] songs with that mixture of rock and soul and hip-hop, and there’s only a handful of them." Mars also stated that he is a fan of Alica Keys, Jessie J, Jack White and The Saturdays. In addition, Mars claims that his work with other artists influenced his musical style, saying that "'Nothing on You' had a Motown vibe, 'Billionaire' was a reggae acoustic guitar-driven song, though one of my favorites is the Cee-Lo [Green] song ['Fuck You!']. I don't think anyone else could've sung that song. And there's 'Just the Way You Are.' If you know my story, you know I love all different genres of music." He cites doo-wop as a major influence on his music, referring to the genre as "just straightforward love songs — so charming and simple and romantic." In addition, Mars states that growing up in Hawaii influenced his music, giving the songs a reggae sound. He explains that "In Hawaii some of the biggest radio stations are reggae. 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." Lyrically, many of Mars' songs have been described as "feel-good", carefree, and optimistic, however, darker subjects are addressed in songs such as "Grenade", "Liquor Store Blues", and "Talking to the Moon", which detail failed relationships and self-destructive behavior.
Bruno Mars - Grenade
Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez and raised in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii, by parents Bernadette "Bernie" and Pete Hernandez, of Filipino and Puerto Rican descent. His mother emigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines as a child and his father moved to the island from Brooklyn, New York. Mars parents met while performing in a show, where his mother was a hula dancer and his father played percussion. At the age of two, Mars was nicknamed "Bruno" by his father, because of his resemblance to chubby professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino. Mars was one of six children and came from a musical family who exposed him to a diverse mix of reggae, rock, hip hop, and R&B. From a young age, he was impersonating and performing songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, The Isley Brothers, and The Temptations. At age four, Mars began performing five days a week with his family's band, The Love Notes, in which he became known on the island for his impersonation of Presley. Before becoming a successful solo artist, Hernandez 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 musical appearance as a singer was in Far East Movement's second studio album Animal, featured 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 of 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 the 99th position on the Billboard 200 and produced one single, "The Other Side", featuring rappers Cee-Lo Green and B.o.B. Mars collaborated with Green once more in August 2010 by co-writing his single "Fuck You!". He performed a medley of "Nothin' on You" and "Airplanes" with B.o.B and Hayley Williams at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010.[Mars' debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, was released digitally on October 4, and saw its physical release on October 5, 2010. The lead single, "Just the Way You Are", was released on July 19, 2010, and has reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as several other charts worldwide. The music video was released on September 8, 2010. The second single, "Grenade", was released September 28, 2010, and has also seen successful international chart performance.