Bruno Mars started trending on social media on Friday, but it wasn’t because of a new single or an album. It’s because the “24K Magic” singer was accused of being a cultural appropriator by a YouTuber who goes by the name serensensei. The clip of her outlining her points against Bruno Mars has gone viral, and it’s stirring up discussion about Bruno Mars and his music.
“He is not black at all,” she says of Bruno Mars. “He plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres and go into different places… people have realized that they prefer their black music and their black culture from a non-black face.”
She went to call Bruno a karaoke singer who hasn’t done much to innovate on the influences he’s inspired by, pointing out that many of the groundbreaking innovators of the black music that Mars samples have not gotten the accolades that he has. Prince, for example, a pioneer in the funk/rock genre, never won an Album Of the Year Grammy, an award Bruno won earlier this year.
The clip is from a larger discussion around Bruno Mars hosted by the Grapevine TV on YouTube.
As you can imagine, Bruno Mars’ fans were unhappy with the critique and made their voices heard on Twitter. Many of these fans were black or at least, had photos of visibly black people as their avatars.
But there were others who saw some validity to the argument that Bruno Mars appropriates African-American music and culture.
This isn’t the first time that Bruno Mars has been accused of being a cultural appropriator or a “culture vulture.” To his credit, Mars has paid homage to black culture during interviews in the past. Here’s what he had to say about it in an interview with Latina Magazine in 2017.
“When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything. It’s what gives America its swag.”
Both he and Mark Ronson, the creator/producer of the song “Uptown Funk,” have been sued by the black artists that they sampled. As Rolling Stone reports, Mars and Ronson were sued by funk legends the Gap Band because of the similarities between “Uptown” and one of their songs. As Rolling Stone notes, the Gap Band were “quietly” added as credited songwriters on “Uptown Funk” as a result of the lawsuit. They were also sued by an 80s funk group called Collage because of alleged similarities to their song “Young Girls.”
Bruno Mars has not publicly commented on the recent cultural appropriation conversation as of this writing.