Bruno Mars found himself at the center of a fierce online debate after the Grammy-winning musician was accused of creating music that culturally appropriated black culture — but his fans didn’t waste any time coming to his defense.
The online debate began after comments that writer Seren Sensei made in a video for YouTube’s The Grapevine went viral.
“Bruno Mars 100 percent is a cultural appropriator,” she said on the popular roundtable web-series, which covers identity, entertainment and politics from the black millennial perspective. Sensei continued, “He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.”
Mars, 32, was born in Honolulu to a Filipino mother and a father who is half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish.
“What Bruno Mars does, is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it,” she argued, referencing the fact that he makes music that would fit into traditional black genres like R&B, funk, soul, and hip-hop.
“Bruno Mars has an album of the year Grammy and Prince never won an album of the year Grammy,” she continued. “The issue is we want our black culture from non-black bodies.”
While there were many who agreed with Sensei’s views, the “Finesse” singer’s fans had a lot to say about why the label wasn’t an accurate one for Mars.
“Except Bruno Mars credits the originators, which is a core issue with cultural appropriation. He’s not taking black culture away from black people a la Elvis Presley, he’s performing in that space whilst contributing to and crediting the black community. It’s not the same thing,” wrote one social media user.
While another simply pointed out that there are other celebrities who have a history of being far more problematic. “When I think of cultural appropriators, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake & Iggy Azalea come to mind, not Bruno Mars,” the fan wrote.
The ensuing debate took Bruno Mars to the top spot on Twitter’s trending list on Friday, a month after the singer himself sent a tweet urging the NFL to pick a hip-hop artist to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl Halftime show, offering up Atlanta rap group Outkast as an option.
While some of Twitter users acknowledged that part of the singer’s success can be attributed to the fact that the music industry doesn’t always reward black musicians for their work, many maintained that wasn’t a reason to criticize Mars.
“Bruno Mars is definitely a talented and successful artist who is influenced by funk music, New Jack Swing, and the Black artists who came before him. I just wish the music industry would also sign & promote more Black artists singing Black music because they deserve success too,” wrote one Twitter user.
While another said, “Its okay to acknowledge that Bruno Mars’ racial ambiguity allows him to capitalize on white americas desire to enjoy black art without embracing black people. And still like his music.”
Reps for Mars did not immediately return request for comment. After taking home six Grammy Awards this year, the star announced he’d be hitting the road again, with extended dates for his hit 24K Magic World Tour, this time featuring “Finesse” collaborator Cardi B.