Bruno Mars, ‘24K Magic’


Aidin Vaziri | Coming off the success of “Uptown Funk,” one of the biggest hits of his career — and what a career — Bruno Mars, 31, is free to stretch out creatively. With “24K Magic,” that means throwing it back to the slick, tightly wound soul and funk of his toddler years — the 1980s and ’90s. The tongue-in-cheek “Perm” sounds like an alternate version of James Brown’s rousing “Living in America,” “Versace on the Floor” revives the kind of synth sounds not heard since Jermaine Jackson last got airtime on “Night Flight,” and you’ll have to check the credits twice to make sure Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis didn’t have a hand in “Finesse.” It’s a novel exercise, if a little curious for a defining voice of his own era. At just over 33 minutes, it’s also brief — signaling that perhaps Mars knows the real gold is in the here and now.


Mark Ronson, ‘Uptown Special’


Aidin Vaziri | Mark Ronson, best known as Amy Winehouse’s hard-partying producer, is experiencing a major career revival after years in the wilderness. His fourth and latest album, “Uptown Special,” boasts stars such as Stevie Wonder, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon and “Locked Out of Heaven” collaborator Bruno Mars, who fronts the infectious breakout hit “Uptown Funk.” But it’s Ronson’s frenetic energy that makes the party, as evidenced in “Feel Right,” which comes over like a classic blunted hip-hop cut in the style of the Pharcyde; the sweeping acid-jazz throwback “I Can’t Lose”; and “In Case of Fire,” a “quiet storm” ballad on steroids. As host and instigator, Ronson is hard to beat.