‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, so the old saying goes. But where does flattery end and plagiarism begin? That’s a point I find myself pondering every time I listen to Bruno Mars; every new single reveals which section of his record collection he’s been rummaging in recently.
For ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Mars had been channeling his inner Gordon Sumner, as the record absolutely reeks of The Police. Take a listen to ‘Roxanne’ (there’s a transcription of it right here, too):
Taking another listen to ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’ straight after hearing Sting and co. really hammers the similarities home:
All this ripping off records from nearly 40 years ago is actually good news for us bassists – it means that we get lines that are played on an instrument, rather than synthesized in a software package. In this case, it sounds like a precision bass played with a plectrum (there’s a whiff of flatwound strings there too).
Nick Movshon’s syncopated bass line is the driving force of the song, providing a sense of movement between the guitar’s staccato chord stabs (as an aside, Nick also played bass on a number of other massive hits for other artists, including Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black album and Mark Ronson’s Version).
In the first chorus, the dynamic level drops, providing a reversal of the typical song format, while the bass outlines the root notes with a constant 8th note line – on the repeat there are some octave slides thrown in for good measure.
Verse 2 begins with just bass, vocals and hi-hat – enjoy your moment in the spotlight. From this point on, it’s more of the same, with no new material to worry about – just make sure that the ending is tight!