When Bruno Mars burst onto the music scene in 2010, he was praised by many for blending various styles and for his “eclectic array of sounds.” His first album featured “near-perfect songs that move from power ballads to bedroom anthems to pop-reggae,” according to Rolling Stone’s review.
Since then, Mars has incorporated R&B, funk, new jack swing and more into his music, racking up two Super Bowl appearances and 10 Grammy awards along the way.
But now, eight years after his debut album “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” and a couple of months after his first Grammy win for album of the year, Mars’s genre-blending has become the subject of debate about cultural appropriation.
The argument, which raged throughout the weekend, began with an episode of the Web series “The Grapevine,” which bills itself as a “fresh and innovative take on the panel style discussion.” The episode featured a panel of more than a dozen young writers and artists answering the question “Is Bruno Mars a cultural appropriator?”
A two-minute clip from the episode featuring writer Seren Sensei quickly went viral, racking up nearly 3 million views and being curated into a Twitter moment by Sunday night.
“Bruno Mars 100 percent is a cultural appropriator,” Sensei said in the video. “He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.”
Cultural appropriation refers to someone taking aspects of a minority culture, such as its music, and using it for personal gain. Elvis Presley, who became famous by performing songs written by black artists, is considered by many to be a cultural appropriator.
While Mars collaborates with many African American artists, such as CeeLo Green and B.o.B., he isn’t African American. The 32-year-old artist was born in Honolulu to a half-Puerto Rican and half-Ashkenazi Jewish father and a Filipino mother.
Sensei continued, saying “because people have realized that they prefer their black music and their black…
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