There is little value or truth in saying Bruno Mars is underrated. At the 2018 Grammy’s alone, Mars was nominated in six categories and swept up three of the major awards—Album, Record, and Song of the Year. For the upcoming Billboard Music Awards, Bruno Mars is among Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar, who each lead with 15 BBMA nominations apiece. And in just a few months, Bruno Mars—along with none other than his incredible, long-time backing band the Hooligans—will embark on the eighth leg of their ’24k Magic’ Tour with support from Cardi B.
But even with his loving fanbase and professional accolades, even though the 24k Magic Tour has already earned over $240 million so far, Mars still feels, in some ways, like a curiously under appreciated artist. Not to mention Mars is often hastily judged as a ‘pop’ artist, when his music and performative qualities are so clearly cut from the fabric of R&B. But because Mars relies on levity, humor, and surface level “Finesse” to wow his audiences, he’s often overlooked for what he’s truly become: a part of R&B history.
This past December, CBS aired “Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo“. The special showed Bruno Mars and the Hooligans working hard for that moment, commanding the stage just like many who came before them. The singer periodically darted offstage to be furbished with a fresh set of clothes, returning in various jerseys and blazers, each time dewy and renewed. And no one evokes the storied tradition of sweating at the Apollo more than the man Bruno Mars is oft compared to: James Brown, who in 1962, recorded one of the most profound concert albums ever made at the Apollo while fully saturating a starched three-piece suit.
Bruno Mars is the first wholly compelling example of the R&B frontman since Prince. And before him, Michael Jackson. Without compromising his pop sensibility, Bruno Mars has—with such style and addicting grace—joined this incredibly intimidating R&B lineage. And with the Hooligans behind him, Mars continues to perfect his act, one which is limitless like the man himself.
With more personal and political art movements—such as Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s—gaining traction, Bruno Mars and the Hooligans may seem like they’re just goofing off across the country. But make no mistake, the ’24k Magic’ Tour—with its electric guitar solos, 30-second-long untethered dance breaks, bombastic horn section, silk Hawaiian t-shirts, and hypnotizing choreography—is history in the making.
The ’24k Magic’ Tour thrives on the energy created between Bruno Mars and the Hooligans, one which is created with complete synchronicity and coordination. Like many R&B and soul performers of the past, Bruno Mars understands that the Hooligans aren’t just his backing band. The relationship is symbiotic, the Hooligans an extension of Mars, and vice versa. And all things must be rightly ordered for something as grand as 24k Magic to be conjured.
The ongoing success of the ’24k Magic’ Tour is clear evidence that not only are Bruno Mars and the Hooligans R&B legends, they are our legends, the first of their kind to emerge since the foundation was laid by Elvis Presley, James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Bruno Mars and the Hooligans continue to perform with spunk and full of dramatics, as if—even now—they’re still awed by their own greatness.