Bruno Mars’ Best Singles, Ranked
After a four-year absence (Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" not included), Bruno Mars burst back onto Top 40 radio with "24k Magic," a funk-inspired blowout that provided our ever-dimming world with some welcome lightness. He announced the release date of his forthcoming third studio album along with it, indicating the world's deep-seated need for levity and joy may soon be fulfilled in the way only a new Bruno Mars album could provide.
In anticipation of 24K Magic (set to drop on November 18), we compiled a definitive ranking of Mars' best singles -- from cuts off Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Unorthodox Jukebox and the Twilight: Breaking Dawn soundtrack -- and listed them in order from worst to best.
Read on to see where your favorites landed.
11) "The Lazy Song"
"The Lazy Song" is not necessarily a memorable single, and it's certainly no quintessential Bruno Mars, sounding more like a Jason Mraz tune with its reggae-light beats and poppy ukulele chords. Nevertheless, there's a certain air of irreverence to this couch potato anthem that makes it enjoyable and yes, relatable. It's catchy, the lyrics are a hoot, and if it comes on the radio, I won't turn it off... Then again, maybe I'm just too lazy to get up. — Erica Russell
10) “It Will Rain”
Where Bruno Mars’ many ballads are concerned, it’s not the sweetest or most upending, but it was the likeliest complement to the Twilight: Breaking Dawn soundtrack’s solemnity. Released in September 2011 ahead of Unorthodox Jukebox, “It Will Rain” is melodrama wrapped in hyperbolic fuss (“If you leave me baby, leave some morphine at my door” won’t soon be etched into a memorial library’s far wall), but it it’ll satisfy the belt-loving theater-nerd inside. And hey, at the very least, it’s still not “The Lazy Song.” — Matthew Donnelly
9) "Marry You"
Bruno Mars has all but abandoned the saccharine-sweet pop approach that ran rampant across his debut release Doo-Wops & Hooligans, and, well... good riddance -- mostly. 2010's "Marry You," a sugary '60s pop-inspired exploration of the kind of intoxicating jubilance inherent in all-encompassing love, makes for a worthy exception. Mars would later go on to embrace his own cheese factor, offering a wink and a nudge while he does it, but he was a little less self-aware here, making for a truly believable, endearing innocence that's charming in its earnestness. -- Ali Szubiak
8) "Just The Way You Are"
"Just The Way You Are" is mostly harmless, as singles go. Upbeat, pleasant and perhaps overly sentimental, the catchy R&B-pop track works very well on radio, catering both to lovesick teenagers and Starbucks patrons seeking a mild environment to drink their Caramel Macchiatos and respond to work e-mails. But it's also a tepid song, and its faux-empowering, chivalrous lyrics send an admittedly romantic yet condescending message to listeners, implying that women are inherently insecure and perpetuating the message that a woman's worth and belief in her own beauty is, at the end of the day, dependent on her man complimenting her. Well, I do like the way I am, thank you very much—and not because you tell me to. — Erica Russell
7) “When I Was Your Man”
Channeling piano balladeers from Elton John to Alicia Keys, Mars offered vulnerability on “When I Was Your Man” that casual fans hadn’t yet heard from him on previous hits like “Just the Way You Are” and “Locked Out of Heaven.” Bruno’s rueful tale of “all the things I should’ve done, when I was your man” is sold through lyrical detail and the emotion in his voice, and falls into similar lost-a-good-one territory as Adele’s “Someone Like You.” The Smeezingtons’ production makes the track sound as if it could’ve been recorded in an acoustically-blessed piano bar, further bolstering the song’s authentic and poignant heft. – Samantha Vincenty
"Dirty Diana" comparisons notwithstanding, "Grenade" offered fans definitive proof Bruno Mars could serve Michael Jackson-like vocal abilities (that range!). And thank god for that -- Mars' talent as a singer softens the edges of his lyrical dramatics here. "Yes, I would die for you, baby / But you won't do the same," he laments, marinating in his own self-pity -- but ignore the lyrics, that melody does a fine job weaseling its way inside your brain and grabbing hold. -- Ali Szubiak
5) "Young Girls"
A mid-tempo offering with faint shades of the doo-wop influence Mars explored on his initial release, "Young Girls" does that debut album one better. The track's heavy percussion becomes its driving force early on, propelling Mars' top-notch vocals -- all that yearning! -- to the forefront, without sacrificing its musical nuance. As the opener for 2012's Unorthodox Jukebox, the track acts as a reintroduction of sorts, as well as evidence of Mars' speedy evolution as a songwriter. -- Ali Szubiak
No, this is not the Bruno Mars that made your god-fearing mother a fan (“You got your legs up in the sky / With the devil in your eyes / Let me hear you say you want it all” might stun her into unconsciousness), but it was a necessary shock to the singer’s oft-polite catalog. The fourth single from 2012’s Unorthodox Jukebox, “Gorilla” functioned like the singer’s own personal Tesla coil, and issued relentless lightning strikes with ‘80s arena rock production that built on itself like an expansive thundercloud. Mars’ rare performance of the track at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards was nothing short of electric and made Katy Perry and Drake look like harmless sparks by comparison. — Matthew Donnelly
Once you immediately move past the odd “baby squirrel, you’s a sexy mother---er” intro, “Treasure” — like its video — bursts into full bloom, in all its disco-tinged funk glory. Retro (24K) magic has become the entertainer’s sweet spot, and the bass guitar-driven verses maximize Mars’ dynamic rasp. Sure, the chorus sounds like a more Top 40-ready iteration of Breakbot’s “Baby I’m Yours,” (and Breakbot eventually won a song credit for “Treasure”), but Mars and the single’s cowriters crafted 2 minutes and 58 seconds of earworm joy that truly puts the “inspired” in “inspired by”. – Samantha Vincenty
2) "24K Magic"
Barring the 2014 release of “Uptown Funk,” Mars’ lead single and title track “24K Magic” served as his reintroduction to the music world following a lengthy (and all too noticeable) four-year absence. And what a way to announce his return: “24K Magic” serves up Mars’ signature retro-lean without sacrificing the kind of explosive, celebratory fun he won us all over with so long ago. He embraces the upper limits of his own corniness here, with references that won't make any sense 10 years down the line ("Got to blame it on Jesus / Hashtag blessed"). But Mars knows what he's good at -- great, even -- and "24K Magic" offers sonic confirmation he's perfected it. — Ali Szubiak
1) "Locked Out Of Heaven"
At his best, which "Locked Out of Heaven" certainly is, a Bruno Mars song sounds like a certified classic from the very first play. "Locked Out Of Heaven" received immediate comparisons to The Police upon its release, and rightfully so: the reggae-tinged, funky rock horny banger fits in seamlessly between "Message In A Bottle" and "Can't Stand Losing You." That pent-up, euphoric chorus ("you make me feel like...I been locked out of heaven...") — with its urgent crescendo of alarm sounds and a pounding pulse — is the signature stuff of Bruno, a songwriter for the knack with some of the sharpest hooks in modern pop. And that bridge? One of his most ecstatic moments on record. — Bradley Stern
Bruno Mars' Best Live Vocals