Singer Bruno Mars has addressed allegations that he is guilty of cultural appropriation in his music.
In an interview with the radio show The Breakfast Club on Friday, March 5, Mars defended himself against accusations that his musical work appropriates Black culture.
“I would say you can’t find an interview where I am not talking about the entertainers that have come before me,” Mars said.
He added, “The only reason why I’m here is because of James Brown, Prince, Michael (Jackson). That’s the only reason why I’m here.”
Mars asked, further explaining his defense against the allegation: What’s the point if musicians can’t learn “from the guys who came before us”?
“Why did they do it? I hope later on down the road there’s gonna be a band that’s taking what we did and flipping that and freaking that and putting their own spin on it, because if they don’t then what was the point of us doing this?” the 35-year-old singer said.
Cultural appropriation is the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of elements of one culture done by a member of another culture.
Mars, who is often identified by Filipino media as a Filipino-American singer, is of Filipino, Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
In past interviews, the “Uptown Funk” singer cited reggae, pop, and Motown as his musical influences. His music and career are often compared to the late singer-songwriter Michael Jackson.
Writer Seren Sensei accused Mars of cultural appropriation in a 2018 video that has turned viral. Sensei said Mars “plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.”
“Bruno Mars 100% is a cultural appropriator. He is not Black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres,” she said.
"What Bruno Mars does is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it. He does not create it, he does not improve upon it, he does not make it better,” Sensei said.
Asked if the criticism about him appropriating Black music bothers him, Mars said: “It comes with the gig. There’s real merit to what people are saying about Black entertainers not getting their flowers."