Both as a solo artist and with his team of hit-making writer-producers the Smeezingtons, Bruno Mars has now been making world-conquering hits for more than six years. (Remember “Fuck You”? That was him, too.) But though he’s had a hand in a half dozen No. 1s, it was in 2014 that he had the smash that will likely define his career—even though it came as a featured artist: “Uptown Funk,” co-written and co-produced with lead artist Mark Ronson, which became the longest-running No. 1 of the 2010s and the second-most enduring chart-topper of all time.
Now Mars is back with his first single as a lead artist since “Funk,” and, well, Mars has never been above giving the people more of what they want. And hot damn does “24 K Magic” give you a lot. The hook-packed single takes the same pastiche approach that “Funk” did, condensing a whole playlist’s worth of dance floor–ready, early ’80s electro-R&B into one song. Even many of the sources seem to be the same, from the Zapp-esque filter on the opening vocal to the Prince-ly funk synths to the stank-faced shouts that punctuate the verses, which might as well be sampled from the Godfather of Soul himself. And to keep things fresh, as on “Uptown Funk,” Mars and his co-writers add just a twist of contemporary hip-hop. Where “Funk” credited rapper Trinidad James for its “Don’t believe me, just watch” refrain, “24 K Magic” fires off a clip of brrrraps, a Cam’ron-conjuring “U Mad?”, and a line about “wearing Cuban links.” Plus: Is that opening call to “set this party off right” a shoutout to Kanye and Twista’s own hit R&B pastiche?
That doesn’t mean it won’t have its detractors. Mars has been hounded throughout his career by accusations of corniness, and a look at the cover of his just-announced album of the same name, with Mars decked out in those same gold chains that he sings about, makes me wonder whether the self-proclaimed “head-to-toe soul playa” might begin facing more accusations of cultural appropriation, too. (Mars, who was born in Hawaii, is of Puerto Rican, Jewish, and Filipino descent.) But Mars and his multiracial hit-making team have long collaborated with artists of all races, writing hits for everyone from Cee-Lo Green (the aforementioned “Fuck You”) to Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, and B.o.B., and he usually honors his influences loudly and proudly. (One noteworthy exception: his and Ronson’s initial reluctance to credit the Gap Band for their influence on “Funk.”) And when you want to get everyone on the dance floor, from grandma to grandson, sometimes mixing together a variety of influences from across genres and eras, while heaping in a little corn, is just the right recipe for pure gold.