Here’s hoping that he keeps his powder dry and nose clean as the music world needs Bruno Mars. With “Just The Way You Are”, he has made songs with a strong melody and lyrics stage a comeback.

If there are only a handful of notes available to create songs and IF all the good songs have ALREADY been written, then, with this one song, Mars has proven the doubters wrong and, perhaps, has made many see- and hear- that there are just only so many “BEATS” available to keep “a song” afloat.

In many ways- and ironically- his “Just The Way You Are” had the same impact/emotional body/musical connection that the OTHER song of the same name had on me and, perhaps, Bruno Mars is this generation’s Billy Joel and when Joel was at his creative peak.

As a songwriter, a producer, a performer, a singer, Bruno Mars seems to be only now hitting his stride and with songs- real songs which can be performed with the ubiquitous B.o.B or Janelle Monteille, or Cee-Lo. How many know that “F*** You” was co-written by Mars? And that he co-wrote Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”? And “Nothin’ On You” by Mr. B.o.B. And has worked with Adam Levine, Brandy, Sugarbabes, Far East Movement- he made his debut as a vocalist with them- Keisha, and Flo-Rida.

The guy is versatile, he is not some “overnight sensation” and has come a long way from when signed to Motown in 2004 and going nowhere with them.

Maybe the world was just not ready for him? Maybe Motown was clueless as how to promote him? Maybe, as with any artist, it’s all about timing. And learning from the mistakes of others and taking control of his own destiny.

With Bruno Mars, with the absolutely brilliant Janelle Monae, Esparanza “Esmarelda” Spalding,  Adele,  Clare Maguire, and others, there IS slowly, but surely, a return to songs, good young musical talent not buried in “beats” and with many no longer at the mercy of music companies and contracts having  no longer having to be the ball and chain they once were.

One can even see and hear this “musical renaissance period” with the songs on “GLEE”, one can hear it on the songs chosen by many of this season’s contestants on “American Idol”.

Though some muso friends and I are still wondering if “American Idol”s” Casey Abrams is, perhaps, trying a little TOO hard and coming across as a caricature of the “jazz cat”, there is no getting away from the fact that he is very well-versed in the songs from Tin Pan Alley. And for a 20-year-old to know and appreciate the music of Hoagy Carmichael, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, well, it shows a healthy respect for some of the greatest “popular music” ever written. Plus, he is very good at what he does.

If music has been devalued as being something we once ALL happily PAID those who created this art form for  hearing their work to now being, basically, “stolen” and “streamed”, there is an “underground movement” working to correct this wrong and create something new in the process.

Sometimes, one has to wonder who the “indies” really are and if those who SO wish to “embody” this “indie spirit” are actually part of the clutter of the giant abyss that is “mainstream”.

Bruno Mars is “mainstream”- and also not. This Season, “Idol” is, of course, “mainstream”, but it has also become more about talent and music than personalities and celebrity judges.

Just as Jimmy Iovine told contestant Jacob Lusk, “DON’T OVER-SING”, the judges are no longer “OVER-CRITIQUING”.

They are LISTENING. And though contestants like Scott “McDreary” McCreery and a few others going through to the Top 24 and contestants like Caleb Hawley and Kenzie Palmer not, in Tim Halperin, Paul McDonald and Ashton Jones, especially, there are three pretty remarkable talents- along with, I guess, Lusk and Abrams though not in shuck and awe of either until they learn to downplay their bag of tricks. 

As a betting man, I’d go for Paul McDonald or Miss Stone to win. Maybe Bruno Mars should write a song for her. She just needs to get away from “Whitney Hustonville”. 

Still, all this is good. Change is good and the music world has changed most this year. And we are only in February/March.

Perhaps like what is happening in Libya, what has happened in Egypt and Tunisia- and Wisconsin- the old guard are finally being driven out of “the temple” and into the streets and into their private jets. The pity is that these dictators will get away with billions.

Same in an industry that has been raped and pillaged and where the fat cats were allowed to get fatter and where it has always been about power, control and subjectivity.

Thankfully, there are new “executives”- hate the word, so let’s call them entrepreneurs, or visionaries or Agents Of Change- taking over from the likes of Clive Davis at Jive, Doug Morris, Lyor Cohen, Irving Azoff etc- and with many of these game-changers  being artists.

This is SO key: ARTISTS TAKING OVER AND RUNNING THE BUSINESS OF MAKING MUSIC and which is different to the MUSIC BUSINESS.

Especially today, and knowing how artists were screwed over in the Fifties and Sixties- and last year- most artists know how to market their music better than any “music executive”.

Sponsors/investors- the music fans- would rather work and deal with artists than any overpaid “music executive”, who, today, for the most part, is an unnecessary middle man and often, a road block.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3145/2625980530_69b96a5551.jpg

It’s like all those buffoons running music publishing companies today and who kill off deals the songwriters never hear about. And, unlike what has been able to happen before, it is key that an artist has control of their publishing or else has full transparency as to what someone signed to handle their publishing is doing with their songs- other than being greedy and snuffing out deals.

The concert promotions business has also taken its toll on many- some of them- a few- good mates and who no longer have it all. One bad gig- and which is always a punt- and the losses can be huge. 

In Hong Kong- and in a strange burst of concerts from a somewhat surreal list of names- we have had Janet Janet- bad- Clapton- so laid-back it was a snoozefest- Taylor Swift- superb, one hears- and coming up being Maroon 5 [again], Dylan, Duffy- she’s still around singing the one hit and variations of it- Michael Buble, Eagles, Elvis Costello [ELVIS COSTELLO? In HONG KONG????] shows something all a bit “wobbly”.

The market here- 7 million people and with 90% being Chinese and totally unfamiliar with most of the names above -  is too damn small for all these acts. It’s all a bit like trying to sell Coppertone to Africa.

If, as in the case, of Dylan and Eagles, it’s a stopover in Hong Kong as part of a “Final Tour” to have “played in China” on their CVs, well, that’s one expensive, ball-busting, money-losing gig for the promoters.

As when the Stones performed in China, there is NO MONEY in playing that country.  

“Final Tour” might be the most appropriate term to use for what is happening in music today. It’s all a bit like saying Goodbye to the past and all those connected with it who have been holding back the progress and Future of music and keeping artists on a short leash and giving them the crumbs.  

  1. Community likes today regulate the entertainment market place in ways that has beenimprobable prior to the net and the virus-like delivery of media, as well ascomplete entertainment material. If you happen to add to that distribution world wide web, news, web pages, from chat to entire motion pictures. It is a completely new world. Some of it very good, some not.

  2. SasPepper says:

    Paul McDonald has a distinct, almost addictive voice and fine song-writing skills. This song reminds me of Cat Stevens ( before he became someone else) in his “Tea For the Tillerman” era.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=uECR9mBwoVM

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