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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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Bruno Mars

Unorthodox Jukebox |


When Bruno Mars hosted Saturday Night Live in October, he did a dead-on impersonation of Michael Jackson in one of his skits. Now on his second album, the chapeaued crooner sounds like he’s making his MJ move with a major moonwalk forward from 2010’s Doo-Wops & Hooligans. The result may not quite be his Thriller, but it’s so good that now we know he’s capable of making that. In the tradition of Jackson’s blockbuster, Mars succeeds at effortlessly switching musical hats on Unorthodox Jukebox, from reggae (the Police-esque hit “Locked Out of Heaven”) and retro R&B (the soul-baring ballad “If I Knew”) to roller-skating jams (the absolutely sparkling “Treasure”). On the latter Mars seems to be channeling the King of Pop without simply mimicking him. More of those moments come on tracks like “When I Was Your Man,” a heartfelt confessional that, with Mars singing better and digging deeper than ever, feels like it could be his “She’s Out of My Life.” Barring a couple of songs-and, a bit disappointingly, there are only 10 over just 35 minutes-this is about as close to pop perfection as Mars could get.

Green Day

¡Tre! |


Another month, another Green Day album. The third installment in the trilogy that began in September finds the trio still producing at a high level. The biggest drawback is that, now that we’ve come to the end, you discover that there is no real thread or point to the whole trilogy. No matter: Although some impact is lost, ¡Tre! (a nod to drummer Tre Cool) is another potent blast of punk-pop, with surprisingly little filler creeping into the mix. Highlights include “Brutal Love,” a lilting slow dance, and “Dirty Rotten Bastards,” a return to rock-opera land.