Bruno Mars comes home this week, but the pop music megastar’s welcome came five months ago, when his first two announced shows each sold out in a couple of hours. A third was added and sold out just as quickly, and now the moment his fans waited months for is finally here.
For the fourth time, the Roosevelt grad born here as Peter Hernandez is back, bringing his mega-successful 24K Magic World Tour to Honolulu for a little homestand.
This visit is his biggest yet, befitting of his ever-growing profile, as he revives Aloha Stadium as a viable concert facility with a venue-record three sold-out shows, capping a 213-concert tour that spanned six continents, 38 countries and nearly two years.
About 110,000 fans will attend the three shows, reinforcing the pop-music superstar’s description of his home state in a 2011 web documentary.
“They got love, man,” Mars said then. “Hawaii … this place is the best.”
Hawaii earns the nickname “The Aloha State” in many ways. From the lei we give out on special occasions to the way we always make sure our potlucks have too much food rather than too little. From the aloha shirts many businessmen favor over three-piece suits to the way we welcome guests — both into our state and into our homes.
But some of our greatest aloha is expressed in the way we support our own.
24K MAGIC WORLD TOUR
>> Where: Aloha Stadium
>> When: 7 p.m., Nov. 8, 10 and 11 (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
>> Tickets: $49.50 and up, available at Ticketmaster.com
>> Guest acts: Charlie Wilson (Nov. 8); The Green and Common Kings (Nov. 10 and 11)
Every Little League team that makes it to the World Series — which only seems to happen every other year — gets the full weight of the state behind it. When Mililani’s Jasmine Trias and Maui’s Camile Velasco were “American Idol” finalists, the show became appointment television from Kalapana to Kekaha, and our telephone votes carried Trias to a third-place finish.
So when one of our own becomes perhaps the biggest pop star in the world? Well, it’s like we ourselves are along for the ride — singing along to every No. 1 song, gushing over every Super Bowl halftime show, celebrating every Grammy Award win.
And when that pop star comes home for a visit? We throw the biggest party we can.
The hoolaulea for Hawaii’s own Bruno Mars begins Thursday at Aloha Stadium. It lasts for three concerts across four nights, with more than 100,000 of his closest friends having already RSVP’d, “Hell yes.”
BRUNO BY THE NUMBERS
>> 19: Top 40 singles
>> 11 million: Albums sold
>> 79 million: Singles sold
>> 7: No. 1 singles as a performer
>> 8: No. 1 singles as a songwriter
>> 32: Weeks spent at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100
>> 32: Countries where Mars has had a No. 1 single
>> 11: Grammy Awards won
>> 27: Grammy nominations
>> 14.049 billion: Total YouTube views for Bruno Mars’ official music videos
24K MAGIC WORLD TOUR
>> Miles traveled: 113,201
>> Days: 594
>> Shows: 213
>> Continents: 6
>> Countries: 38
>> States: 29
>> Cities: 123
>> Stops: 141
Take away something as simple as birthplace and Mars is still very much the kind of pop megastar Hawaii fans would love. Start with the fact that he’s half Filipino. So rare has it been for us to see Asians and Polynesians in the national limelight that we grab on for dear life when one — be it in music, movies or sports — rises to national or worldwide prominence, even if he’s not from Hawaii. A Steve Perry-less Journey would not sell out one concert here if it weren’t led by Arnel Pineda, a singer from the Philippines. In the world of sports, Ichiro Suzuki, Troy Polamalu and Jeremy Lin were local faves.
But the “half” in Mars’ ethnic makeup is as important as the “Filipino” to a state that has three times as many multiracial residents per capita as any other state, for we also pride ourselves on our multiculturalism. Sure, racial prejudice exists in Hawaii, but we’re still the state with the most ethnic variety, and Mars embodies that diversity — his father is most prominently Puerto Rican and Jewish and his late mother was Filipino, but he has flecks of other ethnicities laced in with those. For a state of “poi dogs,” one moving the most assuredly toward a true post-racial society, who better to identify with than a pop star who defies racial categorization?
And Mars is a big enough star that even if he wasn’t from Hawaii, the coming shows would be significant. That said, the fact that Mars is “one of us” certainly adds to the fervor surrounding his arrival on these shores this week. And let’s face it — he probably wouldn’t be coming here if he weren’t from here. Honolulu is on one of its greatest runs of concerts in many years, but while more and more stars are finding their way to our islands, the biggest are not visiting at their peak the way Mars is. We’re getting some great acts, but we’re not getting the Taylor Swifts, the Ed Sheerans, the Beyonces of contemporary pop music. Will that change? Mars’ three sellouts seem to have opened the door to more shows at the stadium, with the Eagles and Guns N’ Roses due in December, and there are rumblings that other stars could be on their way.
Whatever happens down the road, with Mars coming to town, Honolulu for once is included in a worldwide tour by an artist in the upper stratosphere. Mars’ 24K Magic Tour has sold well past 2 million tickets worldwide, with revenue surpassing $250 million. The album it was named after was the second-best seller of 2017. Overall, Mars has certified sales of more than 90 million records/downloads in the U.S. alone less than a decade after he put himself on the map with a smooth guest spot on rapper B.o.B.’s chart-topping “Nothin’ on You.”
All of which serves as a reminder of another reason Hawaii loves Bruno: He always remembers where he came from.
BACK TO WHERE IT ALL STARTED
“Doo-Wops & Hooligans” (2010)
>> Peak: No. 3
>> Sales: 5 million copies
>> Singles: “Just the Way You Are” (No. 1 for 4 weeks, 9 million); “Grenade (No. 1 for 4 weeks; 7 million); “It Will Rain” (No. 3, 3 million); “The Lazy Song” (No. 4, 3 million)
“Unorthodox Jukebox” (2012)
>> Peak: No. 1
>> Sales: 4 million copies
>> Singles: “Locked Out of Heaven” (No. 1 for 6 weeks, 6 million); “When I Was Your Man” (No. 1 for 1 week, 6 million); “Treasure” (No. 5, 3 million)
“24K Magic” (2016)
>> Peak: No. 2
>> Sales: 2 million copies
>> Singles: “That’s What I Like” (No. 1 for 1 week, 7 million); “Finesse feat. Cardi B” (No. 3, 3 million); “24K Magic” (No. 4, 5 million)
>> “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars (2015, No. 1 for 14 weeks, 11 million)
>> “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars (2010, No. 1 for 2 weeks, 3 million)
>> “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars (2010, No. 4, 2 million)
>> “Lighters” by Bad Meets Evil featuring Bruno Mars (2011, No. 4, 2 million)
>> “Young, Wild & Free” by Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa featuring Bruno Mars (2012, No. 7, 4 million)
Sources: Billboard Magazine, Recording Industry Association of America
The pop superstar born in Honolulu as Peter Hernandez has brought his show to town for the tours following all three of his albums, with each visit growing on pace with his skyrocketing career — from one sold-out show at Blaisdell Arena to three there and now three at Aloha Stadium, a venue with about four times the capacity of the arena. For his hometown fans, it was a long wait through a tour that has gone on for almost two years, but in the end he did not forget about us.
Mars’ backstory is well-known, and it both adds to the Bruno Mars mythology and makes him that much more likable.
He started his career as a 4-year-old Elvis impersonator in Waikiki and entertained at hotel shows throughout his youth. During a “60 Minutes” profile in November 2016, he also recollected, with no negativity or sense of self-pity, how he spent part of his childhood homeless, living with his father and brother in an abandoned shack in Manoa Valley.
Mars has credited his humble beginnings for his work ethic and his start in Waikiki for his broad appeal.
“Because of my upbringing performing for tourists, I had to entertain everyone. Not just black people, not just white people, not just Asian people, not just Latin people. I had to perform for anybody that came to Hawaii,” Mars told Rolling Stone for a November 2016 cover story. (Mars had not granted the Star-Advertiser an interview at press time.)
That requirement to entertain all comers has also resulted in a command of various musical styles. His latest album, 2016’s “24K Magic,” is pretty much a straight-up tribute to old-school R&B and funk, but his prior two albums showed off his versatility as a singer and his dexterity at crossing genres, with forays into belted balladry (the soaring yet somber “When I Was Your Man”); post-punk reggae-rock (the Police-inspired “Locked Out of Heaven”); folksy, island-inflected pop whimsy (“The Lazy Song”); and even an amalgam of styles including Motown and surf rock (“Runaway Baby”).
Those songs and those sounds all come from Bruno. In an era in which so many pop stars lean on hitmakers such as producers Max Martin and Benny Blanco, Mars has had a hand in writing and producing every song he’s appeared on. He works with outside producers at times — most notably Mark Ronson, with whom he recorded the megahit “Uptown Funk” — but compared with his peers, such collaborations are minimal. More commonly, Mars and his production teams — previously The Smeezingtons and now Shampoo Press & Curl — work in the opposite direction, shepherding hits for such artists as Adele (“All I Ask”) and CeeLo Green (“Forget You”), the former earning him one of his 11 Grammys.
SHOWMAN BRINGS THE MAGIC
Mars takes that same hands-on approach with his dancing, that extra something-something that takes him from star musician and singer to maybe the best showman currently working, a worthy successor to great entertainers such as James Brown and Michael Jackson.
Phil Tayag, one of the founding members of the renowned hip-hop dance crew the Jabbawockeez, works with Mars on many of his routines — peep him in the video for “Finesse,” among others — but won’t go so far as to call himself Mars’ choreographer.
“He’s not one of those artists that just wants somebody to prepare something for him,” Tayag told MTV.com in January. “We build everything together. He is very involved in all aspects of what he does when it comes to music production and everything. So it’s the same with dancing and creating and choreographing — super involved. … I was thinking in the beginning that he was just one of these artists that wants to be fed this choreography and all that, but he’s not. He’s super involved in everything, so we create together. He is a choreographer as well.”
The choreography is one part of translating powerfully sung songs to a live platform. Mars sees the brotherhood — in one case literal — he shares with his eight-piece band, the Hooligans, as an even more essential part.
“I think the best part of our show is that you can tell that we’re all friends up there,” Mars said in a documentary short posted to his YouTube page, “and you go in thinking, like, ‘Oh, OK, I’m gonna go see this guy sing these love songs,’ but then you kinda get a treat, you get … one of my best friends, (sideman and writing partner) Philip Lawrence, and me and him are just having the time of our life. You got my brother (Eric Hernandez) on drums, and I think that’s where the magic happens.”
>> Oct. 8, 1985 — Born Peter Hernandez in Honolulu.
>> Feb. 14, 1990 — Graces the cover of Midweek at a mere 4 years old, drawing attention for his gig as an Elvis impersonator at the Esprit Nightclub at the Sheraton Waikiki. Mars goes on to appear in costume in the Aloha Bowl halftime show in December and in the Nicolas Cage film “Honeymoon in Vegas” two years later.
>> June 7, 2003 — Graduates from Roosevelt High School. Soon after, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.
>> Feb. 8, 2009 — “Right Round” by Flo Rida (featuring an uncredited Kesha) becomes Mars’ first No. 1 hit as a songwriter (six other writers and the band Dead or Alive share credit).
>> May 1, 2010 — “Nothin’ on You,” a collaboration with rapper B.o.B., becomes Mars’ first No. 1 single as a performer. Five months later, “Just the Way You Are” becomes Mars’ first fully solo chart-topper.
June 15, 2010 — Network TV debut on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
>> Oct. 4, 2010 — Debut album “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” is released.
>> Dec. 19, 2010 — Plays a sold-out show at the Blaisdell Arena.
>> Feb. 13, 2011 — Wins first Grammy Award, for best male pop vocal performance for “Just the Way You Are”
>> October 20, 2012 — Hosts “Saturday Night Live” and serves as musical guest, one of only 25 performers ever to do double-duty. (He also appears as a musical guest only on Oct. 9, 2010, Nov. 22, 2014 and Oct. 15, 2016.)
>> March 16, 2013 — “Unorthodox Jukebox” becomes Mars’ first (and so far only) U.S. No. 1 album.
>> June 1, 2013 — Mother, Bernadette Bayot, dies of a brain aneurysm at age 55. Mars told Latina magazine in 2017, “She’s more than my music. If I could trade music to have her back, I would.”
>> Feb. 2, 2014 — Wows the world as the lead Super Bowl XLVIII halftime performer, with a guest appearance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (He returned two years later at Super Bowl L as a guest with Beyonce at the request of main act Coldplay.
>> April 18-21, 2014 — Plays three sold-out shows at Blaisdell Arena.
>> Jan. 17, 2015 — “Uptown Funk,” a collaboration with British producer Mark Ronson, spends the first of 14 weeks at No. 1, tied for third-most in Billboard history.
>> July 4, 2015 — Performs at the White House as part of President Barack Obama’s Independence Day celebration.
>> Nov. 20, 2016 — CBS news program “60 Minutes” airs a segment on Mars, his roots in Hawaii and his rise to fame.
>> Dec. 13, 2016 — Appears on the “Carpool Karaoke” segment of “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” About 50 segments have aired and Mars’ is among the most viewed on the internet.
>> Nov. 29, 2017 — His special, “Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo,” airs on CBS.
>> Jan. 28, 2018 — Wins six Grammys, including the big three of album, record and song of the year, bringing his career total to 11 Grammys.
>> June 9 and 16 and Aug. 3, 2018 — Three shows at Aloha Stadium this month sell out within hours.