Peter Gene Hernandez (born October 8, 1985), professionally known by name Bruno Mars, is an American singer-songwriter, voice actor, record producer, and choreographer. He was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, by a family of musicians, Mars began making music at a young age and performed in various musical venues in his hometown throughout his childhood. He graduated from high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career. Mars produced songs for other artists, co-founding the production team: The Smeezingtons.
Mars had an unsuccessful stint with Motown Records, but then signed with Atlantic in 2009. He became recognized as a solo artist after lending his vocals to the songs “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B, and “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, which were worldwide successes, and for which he co-wrote the hooks. Mars’ production formula allowed him, and his production team, to work with an assortment of artists from various genres.
His debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, released in 2010, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, anchored by the worldwide number-one singles “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade”, as well as by the single “The Lazy Song”. The album was nominated for seven Grammy Awards, winning Best Pop Vocal Performance for “Just The Way You Are”. His second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, released in 2012, peaked at number one in the United States, UK and other international markets. It won Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammy Awards. The album spawned the international singles “Locked Out of Heaven“, “When I Was Your Man” and “Treasure”.
Throughout his singing career, Mars has won 2 Grammy Awards and sold more than 11 million albums and 68 million singles worldwide. Four of his singles are counted amongst the best-selling singles of all time. Mars is now regarded as one of the most successful solo artists in all over the world, landing 5 number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 ever since his career launched in 2010, faster than any male singer since Elvis Presley. In 2011, Mars was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. In 2014, he was ranked number one on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Mars was also nominated as Top Artist of the Year in May 2014 at the Billboard Music Awards.
Mars is known for his stage performances and retro showmanship, that usually include playing a variety of instruments such as electric guitar, piano, keyboards and drums, dancing and performing a wild range of musical styles, including reggae, soul and funk music.
1985–2003: Early life and musical beginnings
Bruno Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez on October 8, 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was raised in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu. He is the son of Peter Hernandez and Bernadette “Bernie” San Pedro Bayot (b. August 14, 1957, Manila, d. June 1, 2013, Honolulu). His father is of half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish (from Ukraine and Hungary) descent, and is originally from Brooklyn, New York. Mars’ mother immigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines as a child, and was of Filipino descent, with distant Spanish ancestry. His parents met while performing in a show, where his mother was a hula dancer and his father played percussion. At the age of two, he was nicknamed “Bruno” by his father, because of his resemblance to legendary professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.
Mars is one of six children and came from a musical family who exposed him to a diverse mix of reggae, rock, hip hop, and R&B. In addition to being a dancer, his mother was a singer and his father used his musical ability to perform Little Richard rock and roll music. Mars’ uncle was an Elvis impersonator, and encouraged three-year-old Mars to perform on stage as well. Mars also performed songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers, and The Temptations. At age four, Mars began performing five days a week with his family’s band, The Love Notes, in which he became known on the island for his impersonation of Presley. In 1990, Mars was featured in MidWeek as “Little Elvis”, going on to have a cameo in the film Honeymoon in Vegas in 1992.
His time spent impersonating Presley had a major impact on Mars’ musical evolution and performing techniques. He later began playing guitar after drawing inspiration from Jimi Hendrix. In 2010, he also acknowledged his Hawaiian roots and musical family as an influence, explaining, “Growing up in Hawaii made me the man I am. I used to do a lot of shows in Hawaii with my father’s band. Everybody in my family sings, everyone plays instruments…I’ve just been surrounded by it.” When he attended at President Theodore Roosevelt High School he performed in a group called The School Boys. In 2003, shortly after graduating from President Theodore Roosevelt High School at the age of 17, Mars moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a musical career. He adopted his stage name from the nickname his father gave him, adding “Mars” at the end because “I felt like I didn’t have pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I’m out of this world, so I was like I guess I’m from Mars.”
2004–10: Production work and It’s Better If You Don’t Understand
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Mars signed to Motown Records in 2004, in a deal that “went nowhere”. However, Mars’ experience with Motown proved to be beneficial to his career when he met songwriter and producer Philip Lawrence, who was also signed to the label. After Mars was dropped by Universal Motown, less than a year of being signed, he stayed in Los Angeles and landed a music publishing deal in 2005 with Steve Lindsey and Cameron Strang at Westside Independent.
During Mars’ career beginnings, Lindsey, who showed Jeff Bhasker and Mars the ins and outs of writing pop music, acted as a mentor to Mars and helped him to hone his craft. Bhasker, who had met Mars through Mike Lynn (the A&R at Dr Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment who first heard Mars’ demo tape through his sister and flew him to LA), explained: “He’d mentor us, and kind of give us lectures as to what a hit pop song is, because you can have talent and music ability, but understanding what makes a hit pop song is a whole other discipline.” Steve Lindsey was responsible for ” Bruno Mars back for five years while they learned an extensive catalog of hit music.” Meanwhile, Mars played cover songs in a band, around Los Angeles, with Bhasker and Eric Hernandez, Mars’ brother, who is now the drummer of “The Hooligans”.
When Lawrence was first told he should meet Mars he was reluctant to do so, since he didn’t even have money for bus fare. Keith Harris, drummer for The Black Eyed Peas, told him, “Whatever it costs you to get out here, I’ll reimburse you.” Lawrence responded, “Just give me five dollars back for the bus.” The pair began collaborating, writing songs for Mars, but they received many rejections from labels. On the verge of giving up, they received a call from Brandon Creed, then seeking songs for a reunited Menudo. He liked their song “Lost”, which was written for Mars. The duo didn’t want to give the song away, but when they were offered $20,000 for the song they agreed. The sale of this song allowed them to continue working, and Mars and Lawrence decided that they would write and produce songs together for other artists.
In 2006, Lawrence introduced Mars to his future A&R manager at Atlantic Records, Aaron Bay-Schuck. After hearing him play a couple of songs on the guitar, Bay-Schuck wanted to sign him immediately, but it took about three years for Atlantic records to finally sign Mars to the label, because Atlantic felt that it was too early and that Mars still needed development as an artist.
Before becoming a successful solo artist, Mars was an acknowledged music producer, writing songs for Alexandra Burke, Travie McCoy, Adam Levine, Brandy, Sean Kingston, and Flo Rida. He also co-wrote the Sugababes’ hit song “Get Sexy” and provided backing vocals on their album Sweet 7. His first musical appearance as a singer was in Far East Movement’s second studio album Animal, featured on the track “3D”. He was also featured on pastor and hip hop artist Jaeson Ma’s debut single “Love” in August 2009. He reached prominence as a solo artist after being featured on and co-writing B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”; both songs peaked within the top ten of many charts worldwide. He said of them, “I think those songs weren’t meant to be full-sung songs. If I’d sung all of “Nothin’ on You”, it might’ve sounded like some ’90s R&B.” Following this success, Mars released his debut extended play (EP), titled It’s Better If You Don’t Understand, on May 11, 2010. The EP peaked at the 99th position on the Billboard 200 and produced one single, “The Other Side”, featuring singers Cee Lo Green and B.o.B. Mars collaborated with Green once more in August 2010 by co-writing his single “F*** You”. He performed a medley of “Nothin’ on You” and “Airplanes” with B.o.B and Hayley Williams at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010.
2010–12: Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Mars’ debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, was released digitally on October 4, and saw its physical release on October 5, 2010. The lead single, “Just the Way You Are”, was released on July 19, 2010, and has reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as several other charts worldwide. The music video was released on September 8, 2010. The second single, “Grenade”, was released September 28, 2010, and has also seen successful international chart performance. In the United States, Doo-Wops & Hooligans debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 for the week of October 13, 2010, selling 55,000 copies. The album also received generally positive reviews from critics. Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt praised Mars for his “instant-access melodies” and “sly snatches of dance-floor swagger”, but noted weaknesses in songs deviant from his conventional pop and soul genres. He opened for Maroon 5 on the fall leg of the Hands All Over Tour starting October 6, 2010 and co-headlined with McCoy on a European tour starting October 18, 2010.
On September 19, 2010, Mars was arrested in Las Vegas for possession of cocaine. When talking to a police officer, Mars reportedly stated that what he did was “foolish” and that “he has never used drugs before”. Mars pled guilty to felony drug possession, and in return for his plea, he was told that the charges would be erased from his criminal record as long as he stayed out of trouble for a year, paid a $2,000 fine, did 200 hours of community service and completed a drug counseling course.
On February 13, 2011, Mars won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, having received six nominations; Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Nothin’ on You”, Record of the Year for “Nothin’ on You” and “F*** You”, Song of the Year for “F*** You”, and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 53rd Grammy Awards. In the same year, Mars turned down multiple offers to open for famous pop artists on arena tours, deciding to tour alongside Janelle Monáe. The “move” limited his earnings in the short term, but the goal was to build a fan base by “underplaying”—deliberately performing gigs at smaller, more intimate venues.
On September 16, 2011, Bad Meets Evil released their single, “Lighters”, which featured Mars in the song. The song was met with mixed reviews from critics and many criticized Mars for doing this type of song. On September 22, 2011, it was announced on Mars’ website that his new song “It Will Rain” will appear on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack which was released on November 8. On October 30, 2011, Mars gave an exclusive performance of “Runaway Baby” on the results show of The X Factor UK, the same day that Mars received six nominations for a Grammy Award; Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Grenade”, and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 54th Grammy Awards. During the ceremony, Mars performed “Runaway Baby” but he did not win any awards as Adele won in all the categories he was nominated in and also lost to Paul Epworth for Producer of the Year.
2012–present: Unorthodox Jukebox and Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show
On March 22, 2012, it was announced that Mars had signed a worldwide publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis US. Mars announced that the lead single from his upcoming album would be called “Locked Out of Heaven”, which was released on October 1, 2012. On December 11, 2012, Mars released his second studio album, Unorthodox Jukebox. Along with announcing the album title and lead single, Mars announced the other 9 songs of the album. He noted that the album would be more musically varied and refuses to “pick a lane”, explaining that “I listen to a lot of music, and I want to have the freedom and luxury to walk into a studio and say, ‘Today I want to do a hip-hop, R&B, soul or rock record.'”
In the United States, the album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 with sales of 192,000. The album also charted number one album in Switzerland and in United Kingdom. It was the fastest selling album by a solo artist in 2012. The lead single from the album, “Locked Out of Heaven”, has reached number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 and Canada and the top ten in several countries worldwide. The album’s second single, “When I Was Your Man”, has reached the top ten of fifteen countries, including number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
In February 2013, Mars was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 55th Grammy Awards, as producer and writer of “Young, Wild & Free”, however he lost to “Niggas in Paris”. During the ceremony, he performed with Sting, Rihanna, Ziggy Marley and Damian Marley in a tribute to Bob Marley.
The third single “Treasure” reached the top five spot in US and had less commercial success worldwide than the previous two. On May 24, 2013, Major Lazer released “Bubble Butt” as the fourth single from their album Free the Universe which featured Tyga, Mystic and Mars on the vocals, becoming Major Lazer’s most successful single to date. Mars unveiled the next single, “Gorilla”, which was only able to peak at No.22 on Hot 100 and was unsuccessful worldwide, from Unorthodox Jukebox on August 25, 2013 at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. On September 25, Mars was announced to perform eight shows at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas between December 2013 and August 2014.
Main article: Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show
On January 26, 2014, Mars won the award of Best Pop Vocal Album for Unorthodox Jukebox at the 56th Grammy Awards, a week later, he headlined the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show and was joined by The Red Hot Chili Peppers as a musical guest on the platform. Making him the first Super Bowl halftime lead performer under 30 and of Puerto Rican descent. The show ended up being the most watched Super Bowl halftime show in the history of the Super Bowl, drawing record ratings of 115.3 million viewers, passing the record 114 million, previously held by Madonna, who performed two years earlier.