Bruno Mars was riding high when his first album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, was released in late 2010. He was also writing songs as part of the successful production team the Smeezingtons, and doing some hook singing (for huge hits by Travie McCoy and B.o.B.), Mars seemed to dominate the radio and charts. Indeed the first single from the album, the lushly romantic "Just the Way You Are," was topping the singles chart. For the album, Mars worked with a large team of songwriters and producers, but still managed to come up with a record that sounds like it was written and recorded on a warm, sleepy summer Sunday afternoon. The intimate and relaxed feel can be traced to two factors; one, Mars mostly played all the instruments himself and two, his voice is the kind of smooth instrument that slips into your ear like honey. Most of the tracks on Doo-Wops capture this laid-back groove, especially "The Lazy Song" and the reggaefied midnight love jam “Our First Time.” Mars barely raises a sweat on these tracks, cruising in low gear but with a very likeable style. It’s not very deep and it’s not poetry, but sweetly played and sung songs like "Count on Me" or "Just the Way You Are" project a cuddly image and will melt hearts from tweens to old folks. When he turns up the volume and boosts the tempo, however, the album suffers a little. "Runaway Baby" is a pretty cheesy rocker, suffering from clichéd lyrics and production. Faring better thanks to some dynamics and nuanced production is the pleasantly silly "Marry You." (The less said about the over-the-top "Grenade," the better.) The only glimpse of Mars as something more than an innocuous charmer is on the song that ends the album. "The Other Side" features Cee Lo Green and B.o.b., and has the most complicated melody, and the best production and singing; it sounds like the only song that Mars truly invested with some soul and grit. It was also recorded way before the rest of the album, and featured on the EP that came out earlier in 2010. It points to a direction Mars could have taken with the album but didn’t. As it is, Doo-Wops & Hooligans is an uneven debut that shows why Mars is likeable and popular, but doesn’t tap into his full potential as a writer or producer.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra