Peter Gene Hernandez (born October 8, 1985), professionally known by his stage name Bruno Mars, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, voice actor, and choreographer. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii by a family of musicians, Mars began making music at a young age and performed in various musical venues in his hometown throughout his childhood. He graduated from high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career. Mars produced songs for other artists, co-founding the production team The Smeezingtons.
Mars had an unsuccessful stint with Motown Records, but then signed with Atlantic in 2009. He became recognized as a solo artist after lending his vocals to the songs “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B, and “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, which were worldwide successes, and for which he co-wrote the hooks. His debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), was anchored by the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping singles “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade”, as well as the number-five single “The Lazy Song”. His second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, was released in 2012, peaked at number one in the United States. The album spawned the international singles “Locked Out of Heaven”, “When I Was Your Man” and “Treasure”.
Mars has received many awards and nominations, including two Grammy Awards and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, in 2011. In 2014, he was named “Artist of the Year” by Billboard and ranked number one on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Throughout his singing career, he has sold over 11 million albums and 68 million singles, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. However, as a performer, writer and producer his total sales surpass 130 million singles. Five of his singles are counted among the best-selling singles of all time. Mars is now regarded as one of the most successful solo artists in the world, landing 5 number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 since his career launched in 2010, faster than any male singer since Elvis Presley. His total of number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 is six.
Mars is known for his stage performances and retro showmanship. He is accompanied by his band, The Hooligans, which besides playing a variety of instruments such as electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, drums and horns, also serves as dancers and background singers. On stage, Mars is able to sing, dance and play a wild range of musical styles, including R&B, reggae, soul and funk music.
Life and career
1985–2003: Early life and musical beginnings
Bruno Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez on October 8, 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was raised in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu. He is the son of Peter Hernandez and Bernadette “Bernie” San Pedro Bayot (b. August 14, 1957, Manila, d. June 1, 2013, Honolulu). His father is of half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish (from Ukraine and Hungary) descent, and is originally from Brooklyn, New York. Mars’ mother emigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines as a child, and was of Filipino descent, with distant Spanishancestry. His 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 professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.
Mars is 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 and roll music. Mars’ uncle was an Elvis impersonator, and encouraged three-year-old Mars to perform on stage as well. Mars 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.
His time spent impersonating Presley had a major impact on Mars’ musical evolution and performing techniques. He later began playing guitar after drawing inspiration from Jimi Hendrix. 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.” When he attended at President Theodore Roosevelt High School he performed in a group called The School Boys. In 2003, shortly after graduating from President Theodore Roosevelt High School at the age of 17, 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: Production work 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” and a conversation with Will.i.am’s management who turned out fruitless. 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. After Mars was dropped by Universal Motown, less than a year of being signed, he stayed in Los Angeles and landed a music publishing deal in 2005 with Steve Lindsey and Cameron Strang at Westside Independent.
During Mars’ career beginnings, Lindsey, who showed Jeff Bhasker and Mars the ins and outs of writing pop music, acted as a mentor to Mars and helped him to hone his craft. Bhasker, who had met Mars through Mike Lynn (the A&R at Dr Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment who first heard Mars’ demo tape through his sister and flew him to LA), explained: “He’d mentor us, and kind of give us lectures as to what a hit pop song is, because you can have talent and music ability, but understanding what makes a hit pop song is a whole other discipline.” Steve Lindsey was responsible for “[holding] Bruno Mars back for five years while they learned an extensive catalog of hit music.” Meanwhile, Mars played cover songs in a band, around Los Angeles, with Bhasker and Eric Hernandez, Mars’ brother, who is now the drummer of “The Hooligans”.
When Lawrence was first told he should meet Mars he was reluctant to do so, since he didn’t even have money for bus fare. Keith Harris, drummer for The Black Eyed Peas, told him, “Whatever it costs you to get out here, I’ll reimburse you.” Lawrence responded, “Just give me five dollars back for the bus.” The pair began collaborating, writing songs for Mars, but they received many rejections from labels. On the verge of giving up, they received a call from Brandon Creed, then seeking songs for a reunited Menudo. He liked their song “Lost”, which was written for Mars. The duo didn’t want to give the song away, but when they were offered $20,000 for the song they agreed. The sale of this song allowed them to continue working, and Mars and Lawrence decided that they would write and produce songs together for other artists.
In 2006, Lawrence introduced Mars to his future A&R 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, because Atlantic felt that it was too early and that Mars still needed development as an artist.
Before becoming a successful solo artist, Mars 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 Billboard200 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”.
2010–12: Doo-Wops & Hooligans
fter serving as guest vocalist on B.o.B’s and Travies McCoy’s singles, Mars released “Just the Way You Are” on July 19, 2010. The song was the lead single from his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in September as well as several other charts worldwide. The song holds the record of the longest-reigning debut format, spending twenty weeks atop Adult Contemporary. He also released two digital singles—”Liquor Store Blues” featuring Damian Marley and “Grenade” to promote the album, before confirming “Grenade” as the album’s second single, in September 28, 2010. “Grenade” reached number one on Billboard in December and has also seen successful international chart performance. Released digitally on October 4 and physically on October 5, 2010, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling 55,000 copies. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, and has since sold six million copies globally. In February 2012, “The Lazy Song” was released as the album’s third single. It became the album’s third consecutive top five on the Hot 100, peaking on number four on October 23, 2010.
“Marry You” followed as the fourth single from Doo-Wops & Hooligans on August 22, 2011. Although it wasn’t released as a single in the United States, it peaked at number 85 on the Hot 100 on January 15, 2011 due to strong digital sales, since then it has sold 2,2 million digital copies. In November, “Count On Me” was released as the album’s fifth single in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, it was announced on Mars’ website, he recorded and co-wrote a new song titled “It Will Rain” for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. The song was released for purchase via iTunes on September 27, 2011. It peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. During this period, he appeared on a number of collaborative singles, including “Lighters”, a duet with Bad Meets Evil released on July 5, 2011. “Mirror”, released on September 13, 2011, with Lil Wayne and “Young, Wild & Free” with Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, from the Mac & Devin Go to High School soundtrack, was available for purchase on October 11, 2011. The songs peaked at number four, sixteen and seven at the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.
On September 19, 2010, Mars was arrested in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Casino 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. Nevertheless, during a cover story for GQ magazine in 2013, Mars said “I was young, man! I was in f—ing Vegas…I wasn’t thinking”, he further added “I was given a number one record and I’m out doing dumb sh–“. Mars confessed that he lied to the authorities about having done cocaine before, saying “I don’t know where that came from”, adding “I was really intoxicated. I was really drunk. So a lot of that is a big blur, and I try every day to forget and keep pushing.”
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. From November 16, 2010, to January 28, 2012, Mars embarked on the The Doo-Wops & Hooligans Tour in support of Doo-Wops & Hooligans, after turning down multiple offers to open for famous pop artists on arena tours, since the goal was to build a fan base by performing gigs at smaller, more intimate venues.
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. At the 54th Grammy Awards, Mars was nominated in six different categories; 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. However, Adele won all the categories he was nominated and ended up by losing to Paul Epworth for Producer of the Year.
2012–14: Unorthodox Jukebox and Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show
On March 22, 2012, it was announced that Mars had signed a worldwide publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis US. In September 2012, when interviewed by Billboard, Mars stated that the album would be more musically varied and refused to “pick a lane”, adding “I listen to a lot of music, and I want to have the freedom and luxury to walk into a studio and say, ‘Today I want to do a hip-hop, R&B, soul or rock record.'” He announced the album title Unorthodox Jukebox along with the ten songs which would make the final cut of the album and the title of the first single, “Locked out of Heaven”, which was released on October 1, 2012. The lead single from Unorthodox Jukebox reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Canada and charted in the top ten in several countries worldwide.
Unorthodox Jukebox was released on December 11, 2012, and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with sales of 192,000. The album eventually peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, almost three months after its release. The album also charted number one in Switzerland and in United Kingdom, becoming the fastest selling album by a solo artist in 2012 in the UK. “When I Was Your Man”, was released as the second single from Unorthodox Jukebox on January 15, 2013, and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making Elvis Presley the only male who has reached five number one singles on the Hot 100 more quickly than Mars, and reached the top ten of fifteen countries. The third single “Treasure” peaked at number 5 in the United States and had less commercial success worldwide than the previous two. On May 24, 2013, Major Lazer released “Bubble Butt” as the fourth single from their album Free the Universe which featured Tyga, Mystic and Mars on the vocals, becoming Major Lazer’s most successful single to date in the US. In late 2013, “Gorilla” and “Young Girls” followed as the album’s fourth and fifth singles, and reached the top 35 on the Hot 100.
Mars began his second headlining tour, The Moonshine Jungle Tour, on June 22, 2013. It started in North America, and continued through Europe and Oceania, before concluding it in North America on October 18, 2014, as part of the eight shows at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to perform between December 2013 and October 2014. On September 8, 2013, NFL announced that Mars would headline the perform at the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show on February 2, 2014. During the performance he was joined by Red Hot Chili Peppersas a musical guest on the platform. It was the first Super Bowl halftime headlined by a performer under 30 and of Puerto Rican descent. The show is now the second most watched halftime show in the history of the Super Bowl, drawing a record rating of 115.3 million viewers, only surpassed by Katy Perry’s Halftime Show, who had 3.2 million more viewers.
At the 56th Grammy Awards, Mars won the award of Best Pop Vocal Album for Unorthodox Jukebox and his single “Locked out of Heaven” was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, while “When I Was Your Man” earned a nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance. Aside from his music career, Mars reprised his role as Roberto in Rio 2, which was released in theaters on March 20, 2014. Like its predecessor, Rio 2 was a financial success and panned by critics. In October 2014, Mark Ronson announced that he would release a new single on November 10, 2014, titled “Uptown Funk”, featuring Mars’ vocals. The song was a commercial success reaching number one in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Billboard Hot 100 along with several other countries. According to Billboard Mars was the twelfth richest musician of 2013, with earnings of $18,839,681. He ranked number one on the 2014 Forbes list “30 under 30”, a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30, and thirteenth on the 2014 list for “The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities” with estimated earnings of $60 million.
2015–present: Third studio album
After ending the Moonshine Jungle Tour, Mars began working on his third studio album. The artist hadn’t come up with a date for the release, stating “Until it’s done”, adding “It’s gotta be just as good if not better”. Previously, the singer-songwriter was interviewed by that’s Shanghai and gave some details of the new album, confirming Mark Ronson and Jeff Bhasker as producers. He further added, “I want to write better songs, I want to put on better shows, I want to make better music videos. I want my next album to be better than the first and the second”, explaining the writing process of his songs “I don’t sit down and think, ‘I’m going to write a song’, Inspiration hits me always unexpectedly: on a plane, when I’m out or just before I go to bed. An idea will suddenly come to my mind, and sometimes I manage to turn it into lyrics the next day. Sometimes it’ll take me one year to get something real out of it. You can’t force creativeness”.
As a child, Mars spent time impersonating Elvis Presley. This playact had a major impact on his musical evolution; he later reflected: “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.” He also impersonated Michael Jackson and Little Richard who played a lead role as inspiration. Afterwards, Mars was raised on his father’s doo-wop collection — “simple four-chord songs that got straight to the point” and on Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Lymon. During his youth, the hip-hop productions by The Neptunes and Timbaland, that were played on the radio constantly, influenced him.
Mars’ musical style initially gravitated towards R&B since he was influenced by artists such as Keith Sweat, Jodeci and R. Kelly. During the same time, he also listened to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, Doo wop music and Motown. In high school, classic rock groups such as The Police, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles, whose repercussions are notable on Mars’ work. While growing up, Mars listened to singers with high voices, like Stevie Wonder and Freddie Mercury, and some others already mentioned above. Bob Marley, the heavy influence of local bands in Hawaii, was a major account for him and his reggae roots. Hip-hop acts like Jay-Z, The Roots and Cody Chesnutt were among some of Mars’ favourites, and have contributed to his composition skills. 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”. The artist also admires Classical music.
Mars has listed multiple artists as having inspired his work. Among these there are Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. Others include Sly Stone, Carlos Santana, George Clinton and Coldplay. Mars also stated that he is a fan of Alicia Keys, Jessie J, Jack White, The Saturdays, Kings of Leon.
In the cover story for Entertainment Weekly, Mars stated that the song “Nothin’ on You” was rejected because of his race by a “music industry decision-maker – a guy he won’t name”. That experience made him feel like a “mutant”, and he says that was his lowest point. “Even with that song in my back pocket to seal the deal, things like that are coming out of people’s mouths. It made me feel like I wasn’t even in the room.” On April, 2013 during a cover story for GQ magazine, Mars confessed that he changed his last name due to people from the music industry who took him as another Latino artist, and even convince him to sing in Spanish. Mars said “Your last name’s Hernandez, maybe you should do the Latin music, this Spanish music… Enrique [Iglesias] is so hot right now”. Nevertheless, Mars used his childhood nickname Bruno and changed his surname to Mars, in an effort to “avoid being stereotyped”.
Tyler, The Creator
In the song “Yonkers”, Tyler disparages numerous artists, including Bruno Mars. Tyler, The Creator also disparages Mars in The Game’s song “Martians vs. Goblins”, in which he and Lil Wayne are featured artists. Bruno Mars, in response to the verse “stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus,” said, “[Tyler] has to wait in line if he wants to stab me…[Tyler’s] definitely not the first guy that’s said something like that to me and he’s not going to be the last.”
On November 21, 2013 during a performance Kanye West gave his opinion regarding the MTV Video Music Awards, that were held on August 25, 2013. West said “Bruno Mars won all the motherf–king awards and s–t.” he continued, “What I care about is if you’re an artist and you work hard as f–k and the streets say that you deserve that s–t. Then can’t no motherf–king networks try to gas everybody up so they can sell some product with the prettiest motherf–ker out.” Nevertheless, on February 26, 2015, he publicly apologized to Bruno Mars on Twitter while asking him to sing a hook on a song that he co-produced. West asked Tyler, the Creator to direct the music video, who previously had a dispute with Mars.