Bruno Mars’ many Grammy wins for 24K Magic was more than just a victory for the musician. It’s a victory for R&B music as a whole. The Grammy for R&B Album of the Year has often been completely segregated from the major awards. (Frequent nominees and winners include people like John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men and Alicia Keys.)
Winning the R&B Album of the Year Grammy rarely leads to walking up to the stage at the end of the night for the big prize — or even being nominated for it. Lauryn Hill pulled it off for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill back in 1999. And it hasn’t happened since — until Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic brought home both awards among several others.
Does this mean the Academy now respects Black music and is recognizing its’ worth? That remains to be seen. It can be seen as a start.
Bruno Mars is doing his part to bring light to the musicians that have been an influence on pop music for decades. While collecting his Album of The Year Grammy, he gave a heart-warming speech, dedicating his award to Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Teddy Riley. He put it plain: “This album wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for these guys.”
With a monstrous record like this, there’s plenty you probably don’t know. Here are 24 things you didn’t know about 24K Magic.
To get started, here’s a good one: winning Record, Song and Album of the Year in one night gives a musician entry into a very small group of musicians like Simon and Garfunkel, Norah Jones and Adele. (Even Michael Jackson doesn’t belong!) 24K Magic achieved this incredible feat and Bruno is the 10th artist to hold the big three.
24k Magic was born in a top-secret and, well, magical spot. Unlike most albums, 24K Magic was recorded entirely in one studio. The Glenwood Recording Studio in Burbank, California, has hosted everyone from the Black Eyed Peas to Britney Spears. But don’t look for information anywhere. Even the website has only a phone number.
Yet, 24K Magic was almost not born at all. After the success of "Uptown Funk" and Bruno’s not one but two Super Bowl appearances, the singer spoke about having writer's block and not being satisfied with a lot of the early songs he recorded.
Shampoo Press & Curl is part of the formula for the worldwide success of 24K Magic. The production group, originally known as The Smeezingtons, initially wrote and recorded for other artists while Bruno was still developing as a solo artist. They are credited on just about every track.
24K Magic won the big three at The 2018 Grammys but the album also scooped one of the obscure awards. In the non-televised ceremony held earlier in the afternoon, the album won for Best Engineered Album, non Classical. Tom Coyne, the master engineer on the project, passed away last year, so Bruno made sure his wife was on stage to collect the award on his behalf.
Many of the songs on 24K Magic were recorded live. Not in front of an audience but performed live with instruments in the studio. The standard these days is recording in parts and then using Pro Tools. That’s if instruments are used at all. Most artists who use live music save it for the tour.
The entire album is pretty short as music goes. 24K Magic clocks in at just a bit over 33 minutes. A piece of music must be at least 30 minutes in order to be considered an album and not an EP.
The artwork for the album comes courtesy of Greg Gigendad Burke. Known for his innovative work with artists like Jay-Z, T.I. and Wiz Khalifa, Burke often does both artwork and design for album covers. For this album, Bruno did the art direction himself.
Bruno is clearly loyal. The Stereotypes, a Los Angeles-based production team, has been in the game for over a decade. After years of hits and misses, they reconnected with Bruno. 24K Magic was already done but Mars still invited them into the studio and ended up creating “Finesse.” That late addition made the album — and became history.
Outside of the remix of "Finesse" with Cardi B, there are no features on the album. It’s a rarity in this era to skip the tradition of plumping up an album with guest rappers or vocal duets for a varied audience and sound. Bruno decided to keep it simple — even though he’s known to pump up music for other artists.
Bruno’s got nothing against remixes though! Official remixes for "That’s What I Like" include tracks with Gucci Mane and Party Next Door.
Last year Beyoncé appeared at a Bruno Mars show with gold hoops spelling out CHUNKY, a song from Bruno’s album. The whispers started immediately. Would there be a collaboration perhaps? And then, eagle-eared listeners began insisting that Beyoncé is singing backgrounds on the song. Does it sound like it could be her? Maybe. Is that likely? No. However, there are no background vocalists credited on the song…
Bruno Mars fully credits New Jack Swing pioneers like Teddy Riley and Babyface for his new work. Just in case you don’t know what New Jack Swing means: in the late '80s and '90s, a particular form of pop music borrowing heavily from hip-hop and R&B was born with acts like Bobby Brown and Guy. The name comes from early ‘80s hip-hop slang for a newcomer.
The opening lines from "24K Magic"? That’s Mr. Talk Box, a musician known for his work in gospel music. And because his portion of "24K Magic" was sampled on Kendrick Lamar’s "Loyalty," the musician contributed to more than one 2017 megahit.
Bruno’s album helped Cardi B. achieve yet another chart success. With “Finesse,” she becomes only the third person in history — and the first woman — to have five singles on the Top 10 at the same time.
The funk that led to "Chunky" comes courtesy of Charlie Wilson and The Gap Band. One of Bruno Mars’ producing partners told him about a party he went to where everyone played the wall and stayed on their cellphones — until the DJ played "Outstanding" by The Gap Band. Bruno says hearing that inspired him to write "Chunky."
There’s a wink-and-nod lyrical homage to R. Kelly’s "Seems Like You’re Ready." If you don’t know the 1993 song, you might miss it. But he literally croons out the line on his ballad "Versace on the Floor."
A quick run-down on all of the hair-related terminology Bruno spits on “Perm”: He tells a woman to relax (which is another word for perm). He mentions sheen (usually used in aerosol form). There’s a tribute to pat-pat-patting your weave. And he urges us to “activate” the sexy, as in activator used for '80s-era curly hairstyles.
If you’re one of the few people on earth who haven’t heard the album in its entirety, here’s a random factoid: Yes, that’s Halle Berry in a voicemail recording in the middle of the song “Calling All My Lovelies.”
While working with Babyface, a song Bruno never finished began to play. Babyface said he needed to finish it that day. The song became the tearjerker “Too Good To Say Goodbye.”
Music lovers began hyperventilating when photos surfaced of Missy Elliott and Bruno Mars in the studio together. Alas, they were “just hanging out.” Maybe next time.
Bruno is known for keeping things old school when he’s recording. When it was time for him to allow journalists to listen to the album before release, the album was loaded on one iPod stored in a safe at his record label offices.
While Bruno admits that he was nervous when he started recording, he personally put himself against his own biggest work. The title track for 24K Magic was recorded while "Uptown Funk" was still No. 1 on the charts.
Ever the perfectionist, Bruno will tweak a song until he’s 100 percent happy with it. Case in point: his latest single "Finesse" had over 20 different versions.
And speaking of perfectionism, the power ballad "Versace on the Floor" was completely done. Then Bruno listened and felt like he didn’t get it right vocally. He actually ended up writing the song over completely.
Did you stream this album? It’s all good. But Bruno kind of wishes you had it on CD. He designed and wrote all of the inserts for the physical project and then realized that the idea of holding and reading liner notes may soon be a distant memory. He worked really hard on designing the fonts for the song titles. (No, really.)
(Photo: via YouTube)