When you think of Bruno Mars, you think of his ear-candy dance floor anthems, tailor-made for a myriad playlists. Whether it’s his pitch-perfect harmonies or his slick pop melodies, Mars has a way of making sure any song he drops finds a place right at home inside the middle of your head.
Turns out, though, he probably found his way in your song rotation long before you even knew who he was. Before Mars became the world-renowned superstar he is today, he used his songwriting prowess to help other artists hit it big, and even continues to lend a helping hand to songs as he sees fit. These cuts span a wide variety of genres, but no matter who the artist is, there’s a Mars-ian (Martain?) style and finesse to them all.
With Mars’ new album looming, the “24K Magic” crooner is soon going to be adding a bunch of brand new songs to his own catalog. In the meantime, feel free to relive some of the best songs that he didn’t write for himself.
The Vamps – “Can We Dance”
The Vamps were basically supposed to be the second coming of One Direction, but somewhere along the way, things just didn’t turn out the way they maybe should have. There’s a big difference between the two groups though: The Vamps had a song that Mars co-penned, while the 1D boys weren’t so lucky. Featured on their debut, Meet the Vamps, “Can We Dance” is undeniably catchy with a hook that is so signature-Bruno that he probably wrote it in his sleep.
The Cab – “Endlessly”
The Cab’s Symphony Soldier was arguably one of the most ambitious pop-rock records in recent memory. Arriving to the scene in 2011, the hook-laden album boasted a track listing featuring a ton of different co-writers, including Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. A fearless piano-driven pop ballad, “Endlessly” sported a marvelous chorus, and Mars’ presence is felt immediately. To add some icing on the cake, the music video stars a young Hailee Steinfeld well before her “Starving” days.
Cobra Starship – “Living in the Sky With Diamonds”
If you stepped into a time machine and went back to the early 2000s, nobody would believe you if you told them that the frontman of pop-punk heroes, Midtown, would be writing songs with a pop star. Then again, nobody would have believed that Midtown’s singer, Gabe Saporta, would have gone on to make a dance-pop band in the first place. Cobra Starship wrote a couple songs with Mars for their 2009 record, Hot Mess, so it was right before Mars was about to take over the planet with songs of his own. The resulting tunes were the title track, “Hot Mess,” and “Living In The Sky With Diamonds,” and just by the first chorus of “Diamonds,” you can hear Mars’ influence from a mile away.
Sean Kingston – “Tomorrow”
As fun as it is to hear Mars’ writing chops on a song that doesn’t really fit his vibe, there’s something about a song he co-writes that sounds like it could have been his that makes it all the more appealing. On Sean Kingston’s “Tomorrow,” the track takes a lighthearted approach with simplistic instrumentation. “Tomorrow” ultimately sounds like it could have made the cut on Mars’ debut, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, but Kingston has no problem making this one his own. Mars made a couple more contributions to Kingston’s Tomorrow album (see: “My Girlfriend,” “Island Queen”) but the title track definitely comes away as the strongest.
Nick & Knight – “Switch”
Mars picked up right where he left off on his boy band hot streak by co-writing “Switch” from Nick & Knight’s debut record in 2014. Let’s face it, Nick & Knight — the collaborative effort between Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter and New Kids On The Block’s Jordan Knight — didn’t need any help, and the idea alone was pretty perfect from the get-go. But stepping in on “Switch” Mars essentially transformed Nick & Knight into a pop Justice League and that is very a good thing.
Adele – “All I Ask”
Being Adele means you have the luxury of having anybody write a song for you if you want them to. Between 21 and 25, you better believe Adele made sure she enlisted the best songwriters, so when you glance at 25’s co-writers, it isn’t a shock to see the likes of Max Martin, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, and hit maker Greg Kurstin gracing the liner notes. If you look a little closer, you’ll see Mars credited to “All I Ask.” A tear-jerking, emotional ballad with a legendary key change? Yep. Standard Bruno.
Ironically enough, one of the biggest songs that Mars and Kesha has ever been affiliated with doesn’t have either of them at the forefront. On Flo Rida’s number one hit, Mars co-wrote the track while Kesha (then, Ke$ha) contributed to the hook, though she was originally uncredited on the song.
K’naan – “Bang Bang”
Mars helped write K’naan’s banger, “Bang Bang,” in 2009, and Adam Levine’s vocals are locked and loaded with adrenaline on the hook — in fact, it’s actually one of the best guest spots he’s ever done. “Bang Bang” proves that Levine and Mars are a match made in pop heaven, so can someone get the two together on the phone sometime soon?
Jay Z & Kanye West – “Lift Off”
With so many quality cuts from Jay Z and Kanye West’s collaborative record, Watch the Throne, it’s easy to forget who contributed to which song. It’s truly a massive album with features including Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and The-Dream, and you’d lose count trying to keep track of the amount of co-writers each song has. Mars manages to squeeze himself in there, however, on the Beyonce-featured track, “Lift Off.” Mars was actually rumored to have a guest spot on the song, too, but it’s Queen Bey running things all the way, so we just have to settle with his writing credit instead.
Adam Lambert – “Never Close Our Eyes”
After listening to Adam Lambert’s sophomore record, Trespassing, “Never Close Our Eyes” was an instant standout from what was, as a whole, Lambert’s best record (until The Original High, of course). The electro-pop jam, which was written by Mars, Dr. Luke, and more, never took off as a single, but it still stands as one of Mars’ best co-writes. Though the title tells us to never close our eyes, we can envision Mars as the sole artist if we do, and boy, it’s a fun thought.