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Old-school charm informs latest albums of Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys

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MARS. Trouble in paradise?

Old-school charm fuels the music of Bruno Mars in his freshly minted sophomore effort, “Unorthodox Jukebox.” Its lyrical content reflects trouble in the singer’s hit-making paradise, however.

There’s mischief and a looming sense of danger as Mars references the infamous drug bust he got embroiled in two years ago (“Gorilla”) and pays “tribute” to the babe who left him penniless (“Natalie”):

“Never been afraid to roll the dice/ But, when I put my bet on her/ Little miss snake eyes ruined my life/ She better make sure to lock her doors!”

In “Young Girls,” the album’s second single, he sings about indulging in “bright-eyed honeys who keep me up till the sun is high/ I’m addicted/ All these roads steer me wrong/ But, I still drive them all night long.”

The compilation’s edgier tone is a curious departure from the wholesome and winking playfulness of “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” but the flavorful pop-coating of the Fil-Am singer’s red-hot musical concoctions remains his hot ticket to the music biz’s hit-making lottery.

“Money Make Her Smile” is about another gold-digging charmer, but Bruno garnishes its less-than-cheery theme with propulsive beats that fuel his mounting misogynistic conviction!

KEYS. Her fifth consecutive No. 1 album mirrors her domestic bliss.

At least, Mars is honest enough to admit that it isn’t always a woman’s fault when a relationship turns sour—as he does in his anthemic, soul-baring torch song, “When I Was Your Man.”

Mars’ genre-mixing eloquence drives his tunes: The disco hooks of “Treasure,” the Michael Jackson-inspired groove of “Moonshine,” and the breezy reggae-rock fusion of “Show Me” will help you decompress after a hard day’s work. —But, the lilting, Police-meets-Dire Straits riffs and the post-punk reggae of “Locked Out of Heaven,” one of the year’s catchiest dance tunes, won’t let you go until you succumb to its booty-shaking spell!

‘Girl On Fire’

Alicia Key’s “Girl On Fire,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last week, mirrors the piano-playing songstress’ domestic bliss—and proves that turmoil isn’t the only thing that inspires recording artists to deliver pertinent themes and resonant melodies.

Keys’ fifth studio album makes full use of her impeccable skills as a vocalist and musician—from jazzy makeout jams (“Brand New Me,” “Fire We Make,” “That’s When I Knew”) to buoyant R&B grooves anchored on a roaring drum line (“New Day”).

FOSTER AND DION. Hit collaborations.

In the carrier single, “Girl On Fire,” the pounding hooks of Keys’ collaboration with Nicki Minaj solidify its hit-making traction. Other than the “message”-driven “Not Even The King” and “Tears Always Win,” her collaboration with the omnipresent Bruno Mars, it’s hard to resist listening to the upbeat “When It’s All Over”—especially when the singer’s adorable 2-year-old son, Egypt, babbles in slightly comprehensible gibberish as he interacts with his giggling mom, “Ayayo, buh-bay, creyzi (I love you, bye-bye, crazy)!” Aww, shucks!

‘Best of Celine & David’            

The hefty “Best of Celine Dion & David Foster” is worth a spin because tunes like “All By Myself,” “To Love You More” and “The Power of Love” showcase her five-octave range, as well as Dion’s penchant for theatricality and vocal bombast.

The 17-track collection likewise  shows off the 44-year-old Canadian singer’s subtler side, as she movingly demonstrates in “The Color of My Love” and “If I Could.”

More treats: Her duets with Barbra Streisand (“Tell Him”), Andrea Bocelli (“The Prayer”), and Elvis Presley, whose vocals are digitally incorporated into a 2007 version of “If I Can Dream”—a song that is famous for its quotations from Martin Luther King Jr., originally recorded by the King of Rock & Roll two months after the assassination of the civil rights advocate in 1968!


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