People Who Are Addicted To Music
Party music isn’t usually meant to change the world. It’s for relaxing and getting a little bit wild; it inspires kissing and booty-shaking and high-fiving, not marches up the Washington Mall. The chart-topping good time guy , whose dedication to fun comes second only to his respect for those who’ve in the past, would probably agree that his songs aren’t about to start any major social movements. And yet, after seeing Mars play in Seattle on Sunday, I think he’s offering an antidote — albeit a sweetly ephemeral one — to this summer of current events-inspired malaise.
Mars has released two sparkling albums full of radio friendly pop, 2010’s Doo-Wops and Hooligans and last year’s Unorthodox Jukebox. You can’t escape the sound of his voice or his sensibility, but though he’s as a mere song-crafter, Mars is actually the moment’s most valuable pop historian. In his songs we see the whole history of melodic music you can dance to, from Tin Pan Alley to his beloved early-’60s pop to that ’80s moment when new wave and R&B collided. His sound is also wonderfully international, interspersing reggae and Latin influences with the swagger of hip-hop.
Even the name of Mars’ show: the Moonshine Jungle Tour — is risky in the most playful way. He’s acknowledging that the music he loves is rooted in exoticizing and stereotyping people who look like him. But Mars asserts his own humanity by stressing his skills and grace as a musician. Instead of the almost musical theater-like atmosphere of most current arena tours, this one focuses on the basic unit of post-midcentury pop: the band. As Mars and his mates bust synchronized moves and admire each others playing, their delight is our delight.
It’s just that old thing that art occasionally offers: a glimpse of a better world, or at least a happier one. Lately I’ve been struggling to cope with all the complicated and painful news that’s come our way; maybe you have, too. The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case has led to many crucial but painful conversations about race. The bankruptcy of Detroit — the city where so much has been — inspires worries about the state of urban America and the growing distance between our rich and our poor. Recent events in the highlight how deep our political divisions have become. For an average citizen, this is a lot to deal with.
This summer’s most-heard songs encourage listeners to put all these concerns aside and try to , and down the pleasure highway until they just . Pop’s mood is hedonistic and seemingly oblivious to consequence. Mars’s own stake in the Top 10 is “,” a feather-light ’80s throwback whose tone is set by its computer-voiced opening line: “Baby squirrel, you’se a sexy m-f-er.”