The Hawaii-born performer and his trademark fedora roll effortlessly through a variety of genres here, from straightforward modern R&B ("Natalie") to 1960s soul ("If I Knew"), reggae ("Show Me") and one lithe number, the delightful "Treasure," that sounds like an outtake from Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" album.
Though his production team, the Smeezingtons, have crafted a state-of-the-art sound for Mars, these tracks have considerable grit to go with the studio polish. Unlike some in his field, Mars builds his music by using organic instruments. Drums, piano, hyperactive bass lines, all these conventional tools give the album warmth and power. Sure, synthesizers are allowed in as well, but they aren't allowed to dominate, and Mars' music never sounds mechanical or forced. His light, raspy tenor bristles with tension and dynamics throughout. He's a big fan of explosive vocal flourishes, and packs quite a few of them into the album's tightly wound 35-minute length.
The opening "Young Girls" may be his grandest flourish. Its lilting, captivating intro hooks the listener in, and once those drums start pounding along with the song's chorus it becomes irresistible, the strongest melody on an album with no shortage of appealing tunes.
"Unorthodox Jukebox" displays Mars' versatility as a singer, songwriter and musician. It has echoes of old-school soul and R&B, but still sounds completely up-to-date. Call it modern soul music for those who had begun to lose hope for the genre. Consumer note: Just a couple of stray profanities resulted in the "Parental Advisory" sticker.