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24K Magic (stylized as XXIVK Magic) is the third studio album by American singer Bruno Mars. It was released worldwide on November 18, 2016, by Atlantic Records. The follow-up to Mars's successful second album, Unorthodox Jukebox (2012), it explores genres similar to those of its predecessor, such as soul and funk, while Mars and his team focused on capturing the R&B sound that was very popular in the 1990s, described by the singer as the reason he fell in love with music in the first place. Recording sessions for the album took place between fall 2015 and September 2016 at Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank, California. The production of the album was handled by newly formed production trio Shampoo Press & Curl, consisting of Mars, Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence.
As part of promotion for the album, Mars embarked on his third worldwide concert tour, the 24K Magic World Tour (2017-2018).
Background and recording
After ending the Moonshine Jungle Tour, Mars began working on his third album. He had trouble deciding a date for the release, stating that fans would have to wait "[u]ntil it's done" and "It's gotta be just as good if not better". Previously, the singer had been interviewed by That's Shanghai and gave some details of the new album, confirming Mark Ronson and Jeff Bhasker as record producers, stating, "I want to write better songs...put on better shows...make better music videos. I want my next album to be better than the first and the second." The singer worked with engineer Charles Moniz, who called the album the "next movement of Bruno" and confirmed that the album was close to being finished in February 2016.Rolling Stone ranked Mars' third album as one of the 20 most anticipated of 2016. Mars' father confirmed the album anticipated release date to be in March and that seven songs had already been recorded, but his son's appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show led to the release being postponed for several months. This meant that he did not release his album until the Super Bowl was over. Before releasing the album, he starred in the second season of Jane the Virgin as a musical guest.
During the recording of the album, Mars has been in the studio with Skrillex, who said "what [Bruno and I are] doing is so f--king different, awesome and next level and sounds like nothing else that's happened before". In another interview Skrillex claimed "Who knows if I'll do something that's more of a Skrillex thing with him, but we have a vision for his album, and I'm helping him produce it on some of the songs". Mars has also played some of his new songs to Missy Elliott.Jamareo Artis of The Hooligans, disclosed that he has been working on the album for about a year, "trying different ideas and experimenting". He furthered, "It's going to have a new sound...the material is very groove-oriented", set to be released this year.Andrew Wyatt, who was involved in Mars' previous studio albums, has been in the studio. In an interview with Carson Daly, Mars revealed that there were no features on the album, including his work with Skrillex, as it was not completed in time for the album's release. The singer has also confirmed to be working with Babyface on a song and the recording being influenced by late '80s and early '90s.
During the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, Mars said "That there is a groove, a pocket, and a swing that I want to hear." He continued, "The album has a '90s spirit." Mars, on the Carson and Cane show of WNEW-FM, said "You're gonna get a little heart-break on this album, you're gonna get it all." A private album listening party was held in New York City, in a club named Tao. In an interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1 Mars explained with the third album he "wanted to make a movie," he said. "A real movie. I told myself, We're gonna have a screenplay and we're gonna go to that." The movie in his head was set in New York during a summer night "The baddest rooftop house party. 2:30 in the morning, the band comes out, fucking dipped in Versace. The girls are screaming. And then the flyest lead singer the world has ever seen comes on and starts singing some shit." Regarding the plot of the movie Mars also stated that he is unaware of it, he said joking "it's about a Versace-wearing pimp". The singer continued "You hear my other albums, I'm bouncing around from genre to genre. I wanted to really hone it in and give myself a world in which I could keep it contained."
Mars regards Babyface as his hero, saying, "Music, to me, is all about feeling. Before, lyrics, and beats and the new drum sounds, it's about feeling. And he's the best... It's like he has this butter that he knows how to put in and out of these notes and these chords." The two met while Mars was off tour, and they collaborated in the studio to complete "Too Good to Say Goodbye", which Mars had started writing "years and years ago, but it never felt right". He recalls: "When [Babyface] came into the studio, I started playing the chorus on the piano and he stopped me and he said, 'What is that?' I said, 'It's a song that I can't crack the code.' He said, 'We got to work on that, we got to finish that.' It was old-school; sitting down on the piano and we built this song."
Philip Lawrence, one of Mars' band members, stated that playing new songs live while recording informed the process: "What's really helped us... is being able to be in the studio recording an album and then going out and performing it... We got two different vantage points: We got the sitting in the studio laboring over songs for hours and days and weeks, and then we get to take whatever that energy is and put it in front of people. And when you do that it gives you the opportunity to see what works, what doesn't work, what could be better, what could be improved on."
Mars' writing and recording style has been described as that of a perfectionist, and he is known to be critical when writing new material. The singer revealed he was not confident returning to the studio after releasing "Uptown Funk" and was struggling to write new songs. "There are producers who can just create fire," he explained, "But for me there's a process that I have to go through with each song. I have to touch an instrument or it won't come out. If I'm not touching the guitar or touching the drum machine or playing the piano, the song just won't come out. I have to be in it, all the way." As such, "Finesse" underwent twenty different versions, including one in which he sang about "gold chains and cognac over a silky beat", and another which sounded "like a Seventies cop show - like I should be on roller skates". "Versace on the Floor" started with a "piña colada vibe" before the beat was remixed into "epic musical track" intended for release; however, Mars felt his vocal performance was not emotive enough for a ballad, and chose to rewrite the entire track. The final release is described as a "Boyz II Men-ish anthem that climaxes with an indelible hook". He stated that the original lyrics may be used in a later album.
In August 2016, the album entered the mixing stage. The singer returned to the studio for final design choices on the first week of October; by this time, the album was officially complete. Featuring nine tracks over 33 minutes, 24K Magic is slightly shorter than traditional albums; Mars regards this as a practical decision, saying, "If I can't pull you in with nine songs, I'm not gonna pull you in with nineteen!" Although the singer collaborated with dubstep producer and DJ Skrillex, the song was not completed, with Mars stating, "The groove ain't right, or we're not doing something on the chorus. I'm just trying to figure out why I'm tuning out in certain parts." Missy Elliott also joined Mars in the studio, but only to "hang out"; ultimately, no guest performers are featured on the album.
The album's sleeve was designed while using several inspirations, including a "musky cologne ad" and a "1995 [sic] Cadillac Allanté convertible". The latter felt like "bootleg luxury" and when it came the time he was wondering "What's the guy who drives this wearing? He's wearing the best silk s**t he owns! And he thinks he's doing something extra-fancy in shorts!" Mars and Greg Gigendad Burke were in charge of coming up with the artwork, while Kai Z Feng was the photographer of it.
On October 7, 2016, Mars released the lead single from the album, called "24K Magic", along with its music video. He also unveiled the album's official artwork and a link to the album's pre-order on iTunes. On the same date, the album was made available for pre-order worldwide via Mars' official site, offering four different options to purchase. "That's What I Like" was released as the second single on January 30, 2017. "Versace on the Floor" was released as the album's third single in the United States on June 13, 2017. Meanwhile a remixed version of the song by French DJDavid Guetta was released as the album's third international single on June 27, 2017. It had previously been premiered as the album's first and only promotional single on November 4, 2016. "Chunky" was first released in Australia as the album's fourth single, on November 27, 2017. A remixed version of "Finesse" featuring American rapper Cardi B was released as the album's fifth overall single on January 4, 2018.
24K Magic received generally positive reviews upon release. Jim Carroll said "Mars shows he's a smart operator when it comes to the sort of pop which has all the accoutrements needed to engineer earworms, yet is sussed enough to know a little dab of special sauce is often required." Andy Kellman rated the album 4 out of 5 stars. Jonathan Wroble of Slant Magazine gave the album three out of 5 stars.Entertainment Weeklys Nolan Feeney graded it a B+. Cleveland.com awarded it 4 out of 5 stars.USA Today gave it a mixed review, calling the record Mars' "most polished album yet and a laudable step forward production-wise. But unlike the classic R&B he strives to emulate, it's also oddly aloof. Mars too often relies on clichéd lyrics and phoned-in vocals, and shies away from the vulnerability that endeared him to fans on ballads 'Grenade' and 'When I Was Your Man'. 'Uptown Funk' may have signaled a lucrative new direction for the pop star, but let's hope he didn't lose his soul in the process."Rolling Stone rated it 3 out of 5 stars.The Observer rated the album three out of five stars.Consequence of Sound awarded it a B- rating. Idolator gave the album a rave review, rating it 4.5 stars out of 5.Billboard made a track-by-track review comparing the songs to the ones made by other artists and see where the inspiration came from.The Guardian three out of five stars. Q magazine wrote "Ultimately 24k Magic's luxe exterior writes cheques its soul can't cash." Cleveland.com awarded it 4 out of 5 stars.The Independent gave the album a negative review, awarding two starts out of five.
24K Magic debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 behind Metallica's Hardwired... to Self-Destruct, with 231,000 album-equivalent units, which included 194,000 pure album sales,
becoming Mars's third top-ten album in the United States. The album remained in the chart's top ten for the next several weeks and eventually repeaked at No. 2 in its 13th charting week. Despite this, it spent 8 non-consecutive weeks at number one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. As of July 7, 2017, 24K Magic has accumulated 1,110,000 equivalent units in the United States. The album took 34 weeks to reach the million mark sales, while his two previous studio albums Unorthodox took 13 and Doo-Wops did it in 32 frame. With 710,000 copies sold and 1,626,000 album-equivalent units earned in the US throughout 2017, it finished as the country's fourth highest selling and fifth most overall consumed album of the year. The album has been certified 3× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
In Japan, 24K Magic debuted at number 6 on the Oricon, selling 20,000 copies in the debut week. In the second week the album jumped at number 3 on the Oricon chart, selling 15,000 copies.24K Magic debuted at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart, selling 52,300 copies in first week. It debuted at number 3 in Australia. In New Zealand, 24K Magic peaked at No. 2 and charted in the top 10 in three consecutive years (2016 to 2018), just like its two antecessors Doo-Wops & Hooligans and Unorthodox Jukebox. In Canada, the album debuted at number 2, with 21,000 total consumption units.
24k Magic was ranked as the second most popular album of 2017 on the Billboard 200
In December 2018, Billboard ranked 24k Magic as the 26th most popular album of the year on the Billboard 200.
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