Peter Gene Hernandez (born October 8, 1985), better known by his stage name Bruno Mars, is an American singer-songwriter and record producer. Raised in Honolulu, Hawaii by a family of musicians, Mars began making music at a young age. He performed in various musical venues in his hometown throughout his childhood. He graduated from high school and then moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue a musical career. Mars produced songs for other artists, joining production team The Smeezingtons.
Mars had an unsuccessful stint with Motown Records, but then signed with Atlantic Records in 2009. He became recognized as a solo artist after lending his vocals and co-writing the hooks for the songs "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B, and "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy. He also co-wrote the hits "Right Round" by Flo Rida featuring Ke$ha, and "Wavin' Flag" by K'naan. In October 2010, he released his debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans. Anchored by the worldwide number-one singles "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade", the album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. Mars was nominated for seven Grammys at the 53rd Grammy Awards, winning Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Just the Way You Are".
Mars' music is noted for displaying a wide variety of styles and influences, and contains elements of many musical genres. He has worked with an assortment of artists from various genres. Mars acknowledges the influences that his collaborations have had on his own music. As a child, he was highly influenced by artists such as Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson and would often impersonate these artists from a young age. Mars also incorporates reggae and Motown inspired sounds into his work. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times referred to Mars as "one of the most versatile and accessible singers in pop." Worldwide, Mars became the best-digital selling artist in 2011. He had three singles in the top ten, including first place with "Just The Way You Are," which sold 12.5 million copies. Mars won Best International Male Solo Artist at the BRIT Awards in 2012. Bruno Mars has sold 5 million albums and 36 million singles worldwide
Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez and raised in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii, by parents Pete Hernandez, of Puerto Rican descent and Bernadette "Bernie" of Filipino descent. His mother emigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines as a child and his father moved to the island from Brooklyn, New York. Mars' parents met while performing in a show, where his mother was a hula dancer and his father played percussion. At the age of two, he was nicknamed "Bruno" by his father, because of his resemblance to chubby professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.
Mars was one of six children and came from a musical family who exposed him to a diverse mix of reggae, rock, hip hop, and R&B. In addition to being a dancer, his mother was a singer and his father used his musical ability to perform Little Richard rock n roll music. Mars' uncle was an Elvis impersonator. By the age of three his uncle had Mars up on the stage performing. He also performed songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers, and The Temptations. At age four, Mars began performing five days a week with his family's band, The Love Notes, in which he became known on the island for his impersonation of Presley.
In 1990, Mars was featured in MidWeek as "Little Elvis", going on to have a cameo in the film Honeymoon in Vegas in 1992. He later reflected on the influence Presley had on his music: "I watch the best. I'm a big fan of Elvis. I'm a big fan of 1950s Elvis when he would go on stage and scare people because he was a force and girls would go nuts! You can say the same thing for Prince or The Police. It's just guys who know that people are here to see a show, so I watch those guys and I love studying them because I'm a fan." In 2010, he also acknowledged his Hawaiian roots and musical family as an influence, explaining, "Growing up in Hawaii made me the man I am. I used to do a lot of shows in Hawaii with my father's band. Everybody in my family sings, everyone plays instruments...I've just been surrounded by it." In 2003, shortly after graduating from President Theodore Roosevelt High School at the age of seventeen, Mars moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a musical career. He adopted his stage name from the nickname his father gave him, adding "Mars" at the end because "I felt like I didn't have any pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I’m out of this world, so I was like I guess I'm from Mars."
2004–10: Career beginnings and It's Better If You Don't Understand
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Mars signed to Motown Records in 2004, in a deal that "went nowhere". However, Mars' experience with Motown proved to be beneficial to his career when he met songwriter and producer Philip Lawrence, who was also signed to the label. Mars, Lawrence, and engineer Ari Levine began writing songs together, and formed the production team The Smeezingtons. In 2006, Lawrence introduced Mars to his future manager at Atlantic Records, Aaron Bay-Schuck. After hearing him play a couple of songs on the guitar, Bay-Schuck wanted to sign him immediately, but it took about three years for Atlantic records to finally sign Mars to the label. In the meantime, Bay-Schuck hired Mars and the Smeezingtons to write and produce songs for the label's artists. According to Bay-Schuck in an interview with HitQuarters, Mars had stated that although his ultimate goal was to be a solo artist, he was willing to write and produce for other artists, both to help improve his songwriting and help him discover the type of artist he ultimately wanted to be. Bay-Schuck credits this as a period of "self-discovery" that contributed significantly to Mars' later success.
Before becoming a successful solo artist, Hernandez was an acknowledged music producer, writing songs for Alexandra Burke, Travie McCoy, Adam Levine, Brandy, Sean Kingston, and Flo Rida. He also co-wrote the Sugababes' hit song "Get Sexy" and provided backing vocals on their album Sweet 7. His first musical appearance as a singer was in Far East Movement's second studio album Animal, featured on the track "3D". He was also featured on pastor and hip hop artist Jaeson Ma's debut single "Love" in August 2009. He reached prominence as a solo artist after being featured on and co-writing B.o.B's "Nothin' on You" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire"; both songs peaked within the top ten of many charts worldwide. He said of them, "I think those songs weren't meant to be full-sung songs. If I'd sung all of "Nothin' on You", it might've sounded like some '90s R&B." Following this success, Mars released his debut extended play (EP), titled It's Better If You Don't Understand, on May 11, 2010. The EP peaked at the 99th position on the Billboard 200 and produced one single, "The Other Side", featuring singers Cee Lo Green and B.o.B. Mars collaborated with Green once more in August 2010 by co-writing his single "Fuck You!". He performed a medley of "Nothin' on You" and "Airplanes" with B.o.B and Hayley Williams at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010.
2010–present: Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Mars' debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, was released digitally on October 4, and saw its physical release on October 5, 2010. The lead single, "Just the Way You Are", was released on July 19, 2010, and has reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as several other charts worldwide. The music video was released on September 8, 2010. The second single, "Grenade", was released September 28, 2010, and has also seen successful international chart performance. In the United States, Doo-Wops & Hooligans debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 for the week of October 13, 2010, selling 55,000 copies. The album also received generally positive reviews from critics. Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt praised Mars for his "instant-access melodies" and "sly snatches of dance-floor swagger", but noted weaknesses in songs deviant from his conventional pop and soul genres. He opened for Maroon 5 on the fall leg of the Hands All Over Tour starting October 6, 2010 and co-headlined with McCoy on a European tour starting October 18, 2010.
On September 19, 2010, Mars was arrested in Las Vegas for possession of cocaine. When talking to a police officer, Mars reportedly stated that what he did was "foolish" and that "he has never used drugs before". Mars pled guilty to felony drug possession, and in return for his plea, he was told that the charges would be erased from his criminal record as long as he stayed out of trouble for a year, paid a $2,000 fine, did 200 hours of community service and completed a drug counseling course.
On February 13, 2011, Mars won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, having received six nominations; Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Nothin' on You", Record of the Year for "Nothin' on You" and "Fuck You", Song of the Year for "Fuck You", and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 53rd Grammy Awards.
On September 16, 2011, Bad Meets Evil released their single, "Lighters", which featured Mars in the song. The song was met with mixed reviews from critics and many criticized Mars for doing this type of song. On September 22, 2011, it was announced on Mars' website that his new song "It Will Rain" will appear on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack which was released on November 8. On October 30, 2011, Mars gave an exclusive performance of "Runaway Baby" on the results show of The X Factor UK, the same day that Mars received six nominations for a Grammy Award; Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Grenade", and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 54th Grammy Awards. During the ceremony, Mars performed "Runaway Baby" but he did not win any awards as Adele won in all the categories he was nominated in and also lost to Paul Epworth for Producer of the Year.
Mars has confirmed on Twitter that work on his second album has begun. On March 22, 2012, it was announced that Mars had signed a worldwide publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis US.
Mars' music has been noted for displaying a wide variety of styles and influences, including pop, rock, reggae, R&B, soul, and hip hop. His co-producer Philip Lawrence says, "What people don't know is there's a darker underbelly to Bruno Mars." Mars himself says, "I blame that on me singing to girls back in high school." Jon Caramanica of The New York Times called him "one of the most versatile and accessible singers in pop, with a light, soul-influenced voice that’s an easy fit in a range of styles, a universal donor." Mars was initially influenced by R&B artists such as Keith Sweat, Jodeci and R. Kelly, as well as 1950s rock 'n' roll and Motown. In high school, he began listening to classic rock groups such as The Police, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles. All of these genres of music have influenced Mars' musical style; he observed that "It’s not easy to create songs with that mixture of rock and soul and hip-hop, and there’s only a handful of them." Mars also stated that he is a fan of Alicia Keys, Jessie J, Jack White and The Saturdays.
In addition, Mars claims that his work with other artists influenced his musical style, saying that "'Nothin' on You' had a Motown vibe, 'Billionaire' was a reggae acoustic guitar-driven song, though one of my favorites is the Cee-Lo Green song 'Fuck You'. I don't think anyone else could've sung that song. And there's 'Just the Way You Are.' If you know my story, you know I love all different genres of music." He cites doo-wop as a major influence on his music, referring to the genre as "just straightforward love songs – so charming and simple and romantic." In addition, Mars states that growing up in Hawaii influenced his music, giving the songs a reggae sound. He explains that "In Hawaii some of the biggest radio stations are reggae. The local bands are heavily influenced by Bob Marley. That music brings people together. It's not urban music or pop music. It's just songs. That's what makes it cross over so well. The song comes first." Lyrically, many of Mars' songs have been described as "feel-good", carefree, and optimistic, however, darker subjects are addressed in songs such as "Grenade", "Liquor Store Blues", and "Talking to the Moon", which detail failed relationships and self-destructive behavior.