Cat Cohen's Anatomy of a Hit a Hit in 2013

When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars

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Bruno Mars sings an expressive straightforward self-confessional pop ballad about romantic regret.

Song: When I Was Your Man
Artist: Bruno Mars
Album: Unorthodox Jukebox
Songwriter: Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Andrew Wyatt
Producer: The Smeezingtons
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Concept
A soulful woulda shoulda coulda song about losing a lover for giving her too little, too late.

Lyric
The images are straight ahead descriptions of how a lover feels when second guessing himself after a romantic breakup. Same bed, but it feels just a little bit bigger now
 Our song on the radio, but it don't sound the same
 When our friends talk about you all that it does is just tear me down
 Cause my heart breaks a little when I hear your name
 I should have bought you flowers and held your hand
 Should have gave you all my hours when I had the chance
 Take you to every party cause all you wanted to do was dance
 Now my baby is dancing, but she's dancing with another man.

Groove
Set in a halftime 16th-shuffle groove that was very popular in the 90s. The piano and vocal syncopate rhythmically and imaginatively within this predictable well-traveled style reminiscent of Elton John and Billy Joel.

Melody
All four sections of melody are well constructed and well contrasted set in a major key with lots of minor overtones. The chorus melody is especially memorable. The range of well over an octave gives this song a lot of dimension.

Harmony
The standard major scale harmony uses all of the diatonic chords and a couple of outside chromatic ones. II ii I vi I ii V I iii vi I ii V I vi iii bVII I V ii V I ii V I I V vi I IV iv I ii V I V vi iii II ii V

Structure
Solidly structured, if fairly predictable. Signature Verse Pre-Hook Chorus Verse Pre-Hook Chorus Bridge Chorus (Intro A B C A B C D C)

Signature
The short intro uses three keyboard chords in a slightly unconventional order.

Production
A simple piano-vocal-based recording that is all Bruno needs behind him to deliver this heartfelt ballad.

Performance
Mars sings from his gut with nothing held back. Not as edgy and wild a singer as Adele, he expresses his sad romantic feelings eloquently.

Predicted Longevity
If not the most original in lyric, the recording has a very memorable and well-shaped melody. This melodic strength may keep it around for quite a while. When I Was Your Man is universal enough to call for its share of covers. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a female vocalist or two release When I Was Your Girl.

Album Cover: Unorthodox Jukebox

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