“Rotten Tomatoes” is a review writing and critiquing class being offered as a section of “Writing Commons: A Community of Writers” at the University of Iowa. For many of these authors, this is their first publication.
The Selfless Bruno Mars
Relationships are tough, guys. Sometimes they work out, and other times they turn into music.
In his song “Grenade”, Bruno Mars tells a tale of the latter. If the song is to be believed, Mars was once in a very one-sided relationship, and that didn’t make him very happy at all. He was wholeheartedly committed to a woman that wouldn’t return the favor, and his piano and army of producers were his only shoulders to cry on. This is standard pop song fodder, and Mars tries to compensate for his lack of originality by packing the song with over-the-top scenarios of how he’d sacrifice himself to save his damsel-sans-distress (by catching a grenade, throwing his hand on a blade, jumping in front of a train, and taking a bullet to the brain, respectively).
“Grenade” satisfies all of the requirements for a modern pop song:
It’s lyrics can be quoted by teenage girls on Facebook with minimal spelling errors
It was designed to be a top-40 hit, and it succeeded. But, like I said, it feels designed. It hits all the beats that a scorned-lover song should hit (describe the start of the relationship, why it went wrong, and how you feel about it). Mars shouts his lyrics like he’s been through the worst kind of pain, but the shouting doesn’t feel genuine. He’s that guy you know who plays up his sensitivity to get chicks.
“Yeah, this girl was a real bitch to me.”
“Awww, that’s so sad.”
“Yeah, I could really use a tight embrace. I don’t mind if your boobs pancake against my chest.”
The lyrics even read like a sensitive illiterate’s latest blog post:
Gave you all I had
And you tossed it in the trash
You tossed it in the trash, you did
To give me all your love
Is all I ever asked
As far as structure goes, “Grenade” is fairly innovative. It doesn’t rely on a hook, and its mostly Mars’ voice with a simple piano riff and a pulsing drum beat (it’s kind of like if Stevie Wonder wrote a song in fifteen minutes after he lost half of his talent in a car crash).
I tend to write off popular music as stupid when I first hear it, and “Grenade” was no exception. But upon further investigation, I found that it had some merit. It’s very safe while being a little risky, and Mars is a solid singer (also evidenced in his stellar work in B.O.B’s “Nothin’ on You”). Does this song deserve the Grammy for Song of the Year? No. Does it do its job without being completely bland? Absolutely.