Ever heard of the song on the FM radio like “Just The Way You Are” or “Billionaire”? Chances are, you may be listening to popular American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars but the fact of the matter is that he has Filipino blood.
Unlike fellow “Filipino-Americans” like Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger, Black-Eyed Peas' apl.de.ap, The Journey's Arnel Pineda, and Charice, Bruno Mars has its own brand of music. Every time you search Bruno Mars on Google, you always stumble upon queries about his ethnicity. Of course some may say that he's Hispanic from the way he looks. Well his name is Spanish sounding but he's not Mexican and not totally Puerto Rican – he is half-Filipino thanks to his mother Bernadette.
Born in Hawaii to a mixed Puerto Rican-Filipino household, Bruno Mars (nee Peter Gene Hernandez) was exposed to a diverse musical background with a mix of rock, R&B, reggae, and hip-hop. The young boy who would later popularized hits like “Grenade” and “The Other Side” would start his career as an Elvis Presley impersonator. He would also perform songs from Michael Jackson, The Isley Brothers, and The Temptations.
The singer-songwriter would gain lasting musical impact from the musical gigs of his family because every member of his family sings and plays musical instruments. By the time he graduated high school, he was already ready to pursue a musical career in the spotlight of the competitive music industry.
His musical pedigree can be attributed to Filipinos' love for singing and because of this it served him well in the big stage. But before he was able to become a successful figure in the industry, he first wrote songs for Travie McCoy, Brandy, Adam Levine, Alexandra Burke, and Sean Kingston. His collaboration with Flo Rida ultimately paid off as they had the international hit single “Right Round.” Bruno Mars also co-wrote the Sugababes' hit song “Get Sexy” and helped provided backup vocals on their album “Sweet 7.”
His collaboration with various artists from different genres helped build his resume as a songwriter but he was nowhere near as a successful solo singer. Bruno Mars debuted with the album “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” and immediately reached the top of Billboard Top 100. He also teamed up with Cee Lo Green, B.o.B., and Hayley Williams and produced a couple of hit songs like “Just The Way You Are” and “Billionaire.”
Bruno Mars' distinctive style can be attributed to his rich Filipino-American culture and Puerto Rican musical heritage. Mikael Wood of 'The Village Voice' would mention in his article that Bruno Mars is “soft” as the Filipino-American singer-songwriter would admit that he is “singing to girls back in high school.” 'The New York Times' writer Jon Caramanica would praise him as “one of the most versatile and accessible singers in pop, with a light, soul-influenced voice that’s an easy fit in a range of styles, a universal donor.”
Whether we have difficulties understanding Bruno Mars' music or ethnicity, one thing is for sure, the singer-songwriter has Filipino connection indeed.