The Deconstruction Of Popular Music: “Grenade”, by Bruno Mars

The art work for the single "Grenade" by Bruno Mars.

The art work for the single “Grenade” by Bruno Mars.

When it comes to the notes on the page, Bruno Mars certainly knows how to put together a great melody, and backing harmonies as well, and his vocals are top notch, so it is not surprising that his single ‘Grenade’, the hit single from his debut album Doo-Wops and Hooligans performed as well as it did.  Where Mars’s talent shows its limits though is in the lyrics of the song which ultimately serves  as a passive-aggressive anthem of a typical male who assumes because he is willing to give himself to a woman that he has a right to expect the same in return and should the woman not share the sentiments, she is demonized.


The first verse jumps right into an attack on the woman in question where the narrator claims that his beloved lives a life of “Easy come, easy go” and “take, take, take” without giving back and then suggests that he should have been able to discern this from their first kiss since she left her eyes open.  The problem?  Well, firstly, why is it a bad thing to leave your eyes open for a kiss?  Maybe you want to admire the beauty of the person you are kissing? Secondly, how the fuck would he knows her eyes were open unless his were open as well?  Holy hypocrite!  Then he bemoans that he gave her all he had and that she tossed it in the trash before going onto assert that all he wanted was for her to give him all of her love, stating that it was “all [he] ever asked”.  All he ever asked?  That is a lot in my book. Far more than anybody has a right to ask.  I have love to give to a number of people in my life and I am not going to reserve it all for some passive-aggressive prick who is overtly critical of me and doesn’t do anything without expecting something in return.

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars

If the unreliable narrator weren’t obvious enough by this point, it becomes so with the chorus.  He goes on to describe all the ways in which he would be willing to die for his beloved: grenade, blade, train, and bullet.  Once he is done cataloging the ways in which he would die he complains that she won’t do the same for him.  Um… isn’t the entire point of sacrificing yourself so that the other person doesn’t have to die?  It’s not like Jesus climbed up on the cross and starting lecturing all the people that they wouldn’t do the same for him.  While Mars makes himself out to be a martyr, he displays scenarios where he dies each time, never having to live after.  It is easy to die for somebody.  The hard part is living for somebody, or doing things that you don’t want to do to help the person you love succeed.  Taking shitty jobs, or making compromises on things that are important to you.  Mars does not suggest anywhere in the song that he would be willing to do anything of these things.  The only thing he is willing to do is to die.  If she simply wants him to move on and leave her alone, well, he won’t be able to do that.

Captain Picard and Commander Riker after they first listen to "Grenade".

Captain Picard and Commander Riker after they first listen to “Grenade”.

The next verse sees Mars continuing to insult his beloved, telling her to say “Hey” to the Devil when she gets back to where she’s from.  Oh, I get it.  He means to say that she’s from hell.  Burn!  Pun intended.  Then he calls her a “mad” woman.  This is problematic as it is an ableist term.  Mars is attributing the behaviour he sees as immoral in her as being the result of a mental illness.  Either that or he just uses it because it rhymes with “bad”.  In either case it is pathetic.  He then goes onto say that she will smile at him then “rip the brakes out [of his] car”.  While this is interesting in that it suggests that a woman is capable of taking on behaviour that is socially ascribed to men (fixing cars) it is problematic in that it suggests the woman will use her knowledge for malicious purposes (though if I have a guy like Mars harassing me with such ballads I may be tempted to tamper with his breaks myself).

Cortney Maylee: One woman I would be more than happy to catch a grenade for.

Cortney Maylee: One woman I would be more than happy to catch a grenade for.

In the bridge he goes onto say that if he were on fire she would watch him “burn down in flames” and then calls her a liar claiming that she “never ever ever” loved him despite claiming that she had.  “Never ever ever”?  Really?  Are we in grade three here?  Is this guy so bad of a poet that he not only has to add the word “ever” after “never” to make the metre match, but has to add a second “ever”.  Come on Mars.  Are you sure its “never ever ever” and not “never ever ever ever” or just “never ever” or even “never”.  And for the record, just because a woman doesn’t want to give you all of her love, does not mean that she wants to see you in pain or cause your death, and while your definition of “love” may not be the same as hers, to claim she never loved you is presumptuous on your part.

The beautiful Roxi D'Lite, another beauty who I would be happy to catch a grenade for.

The beautiful Roxi D’Lite, another beauty who I would be happy to catch a grenade for.

In the conclusion of the song Mars admits that she would not die for him as he would for her, but despite that, he still loves her so much that he would still die for her.  Hmm…  Yes, he loves her so much that he will die for her, but not before telling the world how that she is a liar who doesn’t deserve his love and that she is malicious and selfish and unloving.  That sounds like a very sincere sentiment.  I’m sure his beloved would have much rather heard a song telling her how he loved her so much he would let her live her life as she saw fit without judging her.  I know that is what I would prefer.  And why does he love her if she is so morally corrupt?  What is the inspiration of this love?  Does she just have a really nice ass? Or a great pair of tits?  There is no substance to this love.  The opposite in fact.  The beloved presented by Mars is utterly undeserving of love, so why would he love her?  Mars comes across as a passive-aggressive shit who is more concerned with what he is going to get out of his ‘beloved’ than what he can do for her.  He does not give without the expectation of something in return and that is not love.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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