By Denise Wong
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records
Think twice about making that Bruno Mars cover video for your special someone — here’s what you’d be saying
Bruno Mars is the singer-songwriter behind the hit single, “Just the Way You Are”, a sweet song about how his lover is perfect the way she is and doesn’t need to change a thing. Ask the average pop music groupie if they see anything wrong with the picture, and they’ll probably shake their heads innocently.
“Bruno Mars is talking about loving a girl for who she is, no matter what. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a great message,” they might say, without ever having really listened to his lyrics beyond the chorus.
He’s not saying that girls shouldn’t be insecure because looks don’t matter to him — he is absolutely saying looks matter, but that whoever the song is meant for doesn’t need to be insecure because she’s already pretty.
The song’s message is quite simple: “I love you because you’re perfect.” Physically perfect, that is. Don’t believe that’s the message that your Prince Charming-slash-role model is really saying? Take a look at the line right before the first chorus: “When I compliment her, she won’t believe me / And it’s so, it’s so sad to think she don’t see what I see.”
What does he see? Her eyes, her hair, and how physically attractive she is (re: first chorus). There’s nothing to rule out the possibility that he only thinks the object of his affection doesn’t need to change because she’s already drop dead gorgeous.
He’s not singing about inner beauty, or how love colours our perspective so that our beloved is beautiful no matter what — he’s singing about big, shiny eyes, perfect hair, and sexy laughs. Note how he never actually says anything about loving this girl regardless of how she looks.
When Bruno Mars says she’s beautiful and she doesn’t need to change a thing, the message I’m getting is, “Pretty people, like you, don’t need to change because they’re already physically perfect.” I can’t assume that he means she’s beautiful whether or not she wears make up—because that’s not what he sings.
And suddenly those sweet words have become flavourless.
“There’s not a thing that [he] would change about her face,” is the kicker line that shows he’s really just talking about physical appearance. “If perfect’s what you’re searching for, then just stay the same” says Mars, completely disregarding the fact that all human beings are predisposed to this thing called old age.
Luckily, it’s a disease easily prevented and cured by Botox shots — but Bruno Mars should probably bank on something other than good looks and long eyelashes, because her “beautiful skin” is going to sag in about 20 years.
Throughout the song, he manages to capture a relatable scenario for women who have, at one point or another, felt insecure about the way they look, and targets those insecurities with flattery by telling them how perfect they are. Yet, as I’ve stated before, his idea of perfect is really more shallow than what most people think it is.
If one looks strictly at the title and the catchy chorus, “Just the Way You Are” almost makes an easy pass for a song with substance. How does telling someone they’re perfect just the way they are seem superficial? It doesn’t, if all you’re hearing is the chorus.
Bruno Mars gives more reasons than not to believe his song is about skin-deep beauty. Because it’s music, I understand it’s open to different interpretations. Just because he doesn’t say he won’t love her when she gets old, doesn’t mean he won’t. Just because he only describes her looks in this song, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her for her personality. Understandable. But that goes beyond giving him the benefit of the doubt; it would be praising him for something he never even said.
I acknowledge his amazing range and admit his songs are catchy, but it’s a whole different story to give him credit for being a sweet romantic when the message behind the song is really quite far from it. No one thinks of Bruno Mars as a shallow singer who sings about pretty faces, they think his songs have uplifting messages — but the problem is that people tend to be selective. They pick out their favourite lines and think those lines represent the whole song, but they don’t.
In the case of Bruno Mars, people are supporting the song for reasons that are not even represented by the lyrics. It sounds like he’s sending an uplifting message to the female population when he sings about how they’re perfect just the way they are.
What people don’t always realize, is that his love is conditional and only applies to those that are physically attractive — which counteracts the major appeal of the song.