No, Bruno Mars Is Not A Cultural Appropriator Just Because He's Inspired By Black Artists

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Bruno Mars

It’s no doubt in anyone’s mind Bruno Mars is a successful and talented musician with years of experience under his belt. With a whopping 11 Grammys, two Superbowl performances, his new clothing line with Lacoste, and his new rum (SelvaRey), his success has been heard all over the world.

At this point, if you don’t know who Bruno Mars is, or heard one of his songs, you’re definitely out of the loop.

Bruno Mars recently surprised fans with a recently-released song with Anderson Paak called Leave the Door Open, which showcases his limitless talent and creativity. His duet album with Anderson Paak shows how far he's willing to go to experiment with new music.

However, over the past few years, Bruno Mars has been accused of cultural appropriation. The conversation ignited after the release of his album 24K Magic in 2018, which took heavy influence from Black artists, producers, and musicians. During that year, 24K Magic won seven Grammys, including Record of the year, best R&B performance, and best R&B song.

Bruno Mars — whose mother is Filipino and father is Puerto Rican and Jewish — soon came under fire for cultural appropriation because most of his inspirations are Black artists. 

As a Puerto Rican and Filipino woman myself, I can tell you that it's absolutely possible for a person of color to appropriate other cultures. Non-Black people of color can definitely appropriate Black culture by doing things such as wearing braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks.

However, in this instance, Bruno Mars is not a cultural appropriator. 

First, let’s define terms: What is cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation?

RELATED: Cultural Appropriation Vs. Cultural Appreciation: How To Tell The Difference

Cultural appreciation is taking the time to learn about and understand another culture, paying homage to those that came before you, and honoring and respecting that culture. 

Cultural appropriation, on the other hand, “refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that doesn't respect their original meaning, give credit to their source, or reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression”.

A famous example is the use of Native American headdresses during Halloween. These headdresses are seen as sacred within the culture, however, they've been used as a Halloween costume, which ultimately makes a mockery of the culture. 

RELATED: Is Rihanna's Topless Instagram Pic Hindu Cultural Appropriation Or Appreciation?

Now the question is: does Bruno Mars appropriate Black culture and music?

One problem is that he is a non-Black artist who has gained great success having made music inspired by and produced by Black artists.

But this brings up another question: are non-Black artists not allowed to make music inspired by Black artists? 

Every single award show, every single interview, Bruno Mars always attributes his success to those who came before him. Bruno Mars honors the legends before him by respectfully paying tribute to them. He does not take entire credit for the music he makes. 

In a recent interview with the Breakfast Club on Friday, March 5th, Mars states, "You can’t find an interview where I am not talking about the entertainers that have come before me. The only reason why I’m here is because of James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson, that’s the only reason why I’m here.”

He goes on to add, “What’s the point if we, as 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?”

Another problem that has been brought up is that Bruno Mars, as a non-Black person, is able to achieve great success while many Black artists are still fighting for their recognition.

This is a fact: Many Black artists have not been given the credit they deserve for the contributions they have made to music.

One of the biggest snubs was in 2014 during the Grammy awards when Kendrick Lamar won no Grammy awards, while Mackelmore won 4 Grammys. While this was the most noticeable snub, there have been plenty, plenty more in history. 

However, the conversation about Bruno Mars opens the door to a bigger problem: Black artists have historically not been attributed the success they deserve for the contributions they’ve made in culture and in music.

They have not been able to profit off of the many contributions they’ve made, yet other white artists such as Justin Timberlake or Iggy Azalea have.

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This is absolutely true. 

But the difference between Bruno Mars and other artists that actually have appropriated Black culture and music is that Bruno Mars takes inspiration from Black artists, creates new music, and pays tribute and homage to the artists that have come before him. 

Music is for everyone. Anyone can be inspired by any artist and should be able to make music based on what inspires them.

Bruno Mars himself doesn’t appropriate Black culture — the larger problem is anti-Blackness in the music industry. 

Why aren’t Black artists being given the credit they deserve and why are they not receiving awards in higher numbers?

Let’s refocus the conversation on that. Let’s find a way to ensure Black artists recieve the credit they deserve.

Let’s eradicate anti-Blackness in the music industry and beyond.

Let’s not fight over whether Bruno Mars is a cultural appropriator, because he has love and respect for his art and those that have come before him. 

RELATED: 9 Major Reasons Cultural Appropriation Is SO Harmful

Angelique Beluso is a sex educator and writer who covers feminism, pop culture and relationship topics. Follow her @AngeliqueBeluso.