“That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars
As a mainstream pop musician, one of things you are tasked to do regularly is come out with tracks that are like a part compressed into a song. And during the 21st century thus far few, if any, have been as successful at accomplishing that goal as effectively as Bruno Mars.
Well apparently one of the reasons he’s so good at party songs is because he does in fact live that life. Or as one of the co-writers of “That’s What I Like”, Roy Romulus, has explained it, Bruno really does enjoy a lifestyle filled with “Cadillacs and champagne”. And Mars’ personal aspiration with this song is to also “(give) you a day in the life”.
“That’s What I Like” is a “Certified” Braggadocio Song
Or put more into layman’s terms, “That’s What I Like” is a braggadocio piece because after all, as revealed by the title, it’s not like he’s putting the featured narrative into third-person perspective. Foundationally, it is premised on the idea of the vocalist being, shall we say filthy rich.
And whereas there may be nothing wrong with poorer folks like ourselves fantasizing about condos in Manhattan, regularly taking trips to Puerto Rico, rockin’ white diamonds and sleeping on silk sheets, to us that is how such lyrics actually read, as a fantasy.
So despite Bruno’s noble ambitions, we will indeed interpret this song as being indicative of his lifestyle as opposed to putting ourselves into his character per se.
But at the same time, it’s as if tales of extreme wealth have always fascinated mankind. So that would logically be one reason why the masses have embraced this piece, despite having no practical knowledge of the lifestyles of the rich and famous themselves. Or as put forth earlier, it is Mars who is indoctrinating us in the ways of the one percent.
The Addressee and Thesis of the Song
Also there’s another part of this narrative that we all can relate to. And that’s based on the fact that, as already stated, the wealth of the vocalist serves primarily as a premise. And what it leads to is the actual thesis of the track. The said thesis is him flaunting such attributes in the name of impressing the addressee. And the said addressee is a romantic interest.
In fact what Bruno is actually saying, as far as the title/chorus is concerned, is that she, the addressee, is the “lucky” one. This is because it just so happens that she has caught the eye of someone, that being the vocalist, who is not only rich but also is willing to show her an internationally-good time.
In other words, she will be the beneficiary of ‘what he likes’ since, as established, he’s chillin’ like that regardless. So it’s like just being his sweetheart alone is going to afford her the opportunity to enjoy the rich life. Thus she is fortunate enough to be living the standard romantic dream as far as women are concerned, i.e. having a man that’s wealthy fall in love with her. And as such in the bridge, the vocalist is also telling the addressee that she can go about enjoying his resources, if you will, based on her own needs and wants also in terms of having “a good time”.
Or most simply put, behind all of the 24K glitter, this is actually a love song. And what the singer appears to be saying, conclusively, is that he is willing to use all resources at his disposal in the name of engaging in a mutually-enjoyable date with the addressee.
Writing and Production of “That’s What I Like”
This song was produced by two different groups, Shampoo Press & Curl alongside The Stereotypes. And the individual members of those entities are also credited as the writers of “That’s What I Like”.
In the case of the former, that would be Bruno Mars, Brody Brown and Philip Laurence. And as for the latter, The Stereotypes consists of the following:
- Jonathan Yip
- Jeremy Reeves
- Ray Romulus
- Ray Charles McCullough II
Also James Fauntleroy, who has helped create hits for the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, is another writer of this tune. In fact as the story goes, Mars was obsessed with making “That’s What I Like” as perfect as possible. So it was he who personally enlisted Fauntleroy to participate.
Release of “That’s What I Like”
This track is from Bruno Mars’ third full-length, “24K Magic” (2016). Said project failed to top the Billboard 200, falling just a spot short. However, it has still been certified triple-platinum in the US and Up North. That’s because in addition to this particular song the title track also proved to be a big hit, as well Bruno’s first collaboration with Cardi B, “Finesse“, being featured therein.
But to note his 2014 hit “Uptown Funk” was not featured on this or any other Bruno Mars’ album. Rather it is part of its headliner, Mark Ronson’s 2015 project entitled “Uptown Special”.
Bruno Mars first teased this song or more specifically the fact that he was working on “24K Magic” during September of 2014.
Meanwhile Atlantic Records went on to release “That’s What I Like” itself on the date of 30 January 2016. It was ultimately chosen to serve as the second single from “24K Magic”, even though previously the plan was for another track, “Versace on the Floor“, to play such a role. The latter was eventually issued as the third single from the album.
“That’s What I Like” ended up being the biggest hit featured on “24K Magic”, and to simply say that it was successful as a single would be an understatement. For instance, the track was nominated for a plethora of awards via institutions such as the following:
- Teen Choice Awards
- Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards
- iHeartRadio Music Awards
And it did end up taking home quite a few notable accolades. For instance, in 2018 it was the first ever recipient of an NAACP Image Awards in the Outstanding Song category. The tune took home a 2017 AMA for Favorite Soul/R&B Song and also earned the Song of the Year distinction during that season’s Soul Train Music Awards.
Even more impressively, the following year it was granted that same title at the Grammys, in addition to taking home the Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song accolades.
Even More Success
The music video to this track also won its own American Music Award and NAACP Image Award, respectively being in the categories of Video of the Year and Outstanding Music Video. Also, 2017 also bore witness to the visual taking home a MTV Video Music Award Japan for Best Male Video.
And said clip was in fact directed by Bruno Mars himself, who did so alongside Jonathan Lia. Additionally even though the song itself didn’t win the aforementioned Grammys until the following year, 2017’s Grammy Awards marked the first time Mars performed “That’s What I Like” live.
Global Chart Success
And now comes the part where we get into its global chart success and certifications. “That’s What I Like” was a true international success. It charted in almost 40 countries across 5 continents. However, somewhat oddly for a hit of this magnitude, it only reached number one in Mars’ homeland of the United States. But in that regard it actually topped 4 different Billboard lists, not just the Hot 100 but also the following listings:
- Mainstream Top 40
- Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Also, this song achieved multi-platinum status in four countries. Well actually it went diamond in the US. This feat made it the fifth time that a Bruno Mars’ single (or one that he was featured on) sold at least 10,000,000 copies in his homeland. And also to note, it achieved septuple-platinum status in the Land Down Under.
Bruno Mars had established himself as a very-successful singer even prior to the release of this song. In fact his very first album, “Doo-Woops & Hooligans”, actually produced a couple of tracks – his debut single “Just the Way You Are” and its follow-up, “Grenade” – that sold in excess of 10,000,000 copies in the US alone.
The other two songs we referenced earlier that also did so are “When I Was Your Man” (2013) and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” (2014). But let it be known that whereas those tracks may have been bigger hits commercially, none of them actually won as many Grammys as “That’s What I Like”.
Where was “That’s What I Like” recorded?
This song was recorded in California at Glenwood Place Studios. It was subsequently mixed in Virginia Beach at MixStar Studios and mastered in NYC at Sterling Sound.