"Good songs are like good movies," says Bruno Mars. "You're telling stories in a way they haven't been told before." He would know: In the past year, the 25-year-old Hawaii native (Peter Hernandez) has charted smash hits in styles from doo-wop to funk. And he's done it as a vocalist ("Grenade"), songwriter (Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You"), and producer (K'naan's "Wavin' Flag"). For what became his Grammy-winning solo debut, "Just the Way You Are," Mars awoke with a two-note melody stuck in his head. "I grabbed a mic and started humming and mumbling, trying to find the sweet spot," he recalls. Mars eventually played the rough tune for his production trio, the Smeezingtons, so they could help him finesse it. "Everyone has their role—Ari [Levine] banging away on drums, me playing piano, Phil [Lawrence] humming different melodies," he says. "We're kind of like a basketball team." To date, the track has sold more than 4 million copies in the U.S.
The most important part of my songs is sincerity. I mean everything that I'm singing, and I want people to know that and feel that.
Watch Mars at work in these music videos.
I love going to the movies. Getting lost in a story is the only thing that gets the noise out of my head.