Is Bruno Mars Guilty of Cultural Appropriation?

Dimas Sanfiorenzo Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes…
Is Bruno Mars Stealing Black Culture

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Is Bruno Mars guilty of cultural appropriation?

On Friday there was a raging debate on Twitter (what’s new.) This one was interesting. It was centered around one of the most popular singers in pop music: Bruno Mars.

The debate can be distilled to this; is Bruno Mars guilty of cultural appropriation?

READ: Bruno Mars: “American Music Is Black Music”

It started on Tuesday with an interview that Billboard published with Meshell Ndegeocello. She did not have the kindest words for Bruno Mars, who recently took home a Grammy for Album of the Year:

What he’s doing is karaoke, basically. With “Finesse,” in particular, I think he was simply copying Bell Biv DeVoe. I think he was copying Babyface. And definitely there were some elements of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis back when they worked with Human League. I feel like there’s just all these threads running through there, but not in a genuine way.

Then, writer, YouTuber, and activist Seren Sensei appeared on The Grapevine and let her views be known. She felt like Bruno was a cultural appropriator. Twitter user hannahmburrell ripped the video and put it on her timeline:

READ: Bruno Mars is Going on Tour With His “Lil Sis” Cardi B

The reaction to her video was swift and divisive. Some feel like she made good points:

Others thought she was wrong:

The debate went on for hours; Bruno Mars was a top trending topic in the United States for basically the entire day.

Here were some more interesting/insightful/funny tweets:

Complex was able to sit down with Seren Sensei, who isn’t backing down from her comments:

I feel like it’s great that he recognizes his influences. It’s great that he pays homage, but I personally don’t think that’s enough. I have an issue with Bruno being an unoriginal artist, he’s not a unique artist, he’s not a creative artist. I’ve also said this in my own videos on him. The video he did for that song “Finesse,” it’s like, this whole song sounds like a word-for-word creation of a TLC song; the video is a complete recreation of In Living Color.

This is why people say he’s a karaoke artist or he’s a wedding singer, because he’s not doing anything unique. He’s not doing anything creative, or original. He doesn’t take inspiration; he basically does a recreation of things that already exist. So to me, if you’re gonna be a real artist, an Album of the Year award-winning artist, you need to just stop blatantly copying. I don’t know when it became okay to just blatantly copy, but if you’re gonna be a musician, he needs to No. 1: stop copying.

Sensei also said that Bruno Mars fans got her blocked from Twitter for seven days so she can’t respond to any of the comments.

Where do you stand?

Source: Complex, Billboard

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