When I Was Your Man

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"When I Was Your Man"
Single by Bruno Mars
from the album Unorthodox Jukebox
ReleasedJanuary 15, 2013
FormatCD single, digital download
Recorded2012
Genre
Length3:33
LabelAtlantic
Writer(s)
ProducerThe Smeezingtons
Bruno Mars singles chronology
"Locked Out of Heaven"
(2012)
"When I Was Your Man"
(2013)
"Treasure"
(2013)
Music video
"When I Was Your Man" on YouTube
 
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"When I Was Your Man"
Single by Bruno Mars
from the album Unorthodox Jukebox
ReleasedJanuary 15, 2013
FormatCD single, digital download
Recorded2012
Genre
Length3:33
LabelAtlantic
Writer(s)
ProducerThe Smeezingtons
Bruno Mars singles chronology
"Locked Out of Heaven"
(2012)
"When I Was Your Man"
(2013)
"Treasure"
(2013)
Music video
"When I Was Your Man" on YouTube

"When I Was Your Man" is a song by American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, from his second studio album, Unorthodox Jukebox (2012). The song was written by Mars, Philip Lawrence, Moe Faisal, Ari Levine and Andrew Wyatt, while production was handled by The Smeezingtons. It was released as the third promotional single taken from the album and as the second official single. The song is part of the soundtrack of the Brazilian soap opera Amor à Vida.[1]

"When I Was Your Man" is a soul and pop piano ballad about a pre-fame heartbreak as he regrets a girl that he let get away, expressing his earnest hope that her new man is giving her all the love and attention he was unwilling, or unable to provide when they were together. It received positive reviews from music critics, who praised Mars's vocals and named it a "vulnerable and emotional ballad". It became an international success in regions such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States, where it topped the charts. The song is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[2]

Background[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" was released as the third and final promotional single taken from "Unorthodox Jukebox", on December 3, 2012.[3][4] Later, it was rumoured that "Young Girls" was scheduled to be the second single from the album.[5] However, a week later, while performing "When I Was Your Man" on a TV show, he announced that it would be the second official single from the album.[4] To confirm the news, Mediabase also published that the song will be soon released to radio stations.[6]

While working on the album, Mars wrote the song with Miike Snow's Andrew Wyatt. "When we started the record, I was like, 'I'm never singing another ballad again,' but that came from the gut – it's the most honest, real thing I've ever sang," he says. "When there are no safe bets, that's when I feel my blood move."[7] He also shared how important the lyrics to this song are for him when he posted a photograph of Unorthodox Jukebox's artwork via his Twitter account. "Soon you guys will hear a song I wrote called When I Was Your Man. I've never been this nervous. Can't explain it," he tweeted.[8]

Philip Lawrence on an interview with American Songwriter said "I think Bruno and I are both huge fans of older music, like Billy Joel and Elton John. We always loved those moments where you can sit at the piano and emote. Those intimate moments when an artist is so naked and vulnerable; you can’t help but be drawn to it. We always wanted to find a stripped down song like that, which is how that song came to be. The subject matter was real life; Bruno had experienced that, so we tried to say it in the best and catchiest way we could.[9]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

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A 27 second sample of "When I Was Your Man," where Mars sings about a lost love, while a piano is playing on the background.

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"When I Was Your Man" was written by Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine and Andrew Wyatt, while production was handled by the latter three production-team The Smeezingtons.[10] Having the chord progression of Am-C-Dm-G, the song is written in the key of A minor, with Mars's vocals range from the low note of G3 the high note of C5.[11] The soul and pop piano ballad finds Mars singing about a pre-fame heartbreak as he regrets a girl that he let get away.[12] It starts with rolling piano riff and near-scat vocal cadence, "Same bed but it feels just a little bit bigger now / Our song on the radio but it don’t sound the same," he starts lamenting his current single state.[13] Later, he sings about his prior failure to do right by his woman, "I shoulda bought you flowers / And held your hand / Shoulda gave you all my hours / When I had the chance."[13] Its title phrase is used in the final chorus, as Bruno changes all the things he "shoulda" done into things he hopes his ex’s new man does for her, concluding "Do all of the things I should have done / When I was your man."[13]

For Andrew Unterberger of Pop Dust, the song "starts out dangerously close to 'Drops of Jupiter' territory, but luckily, there are no fried chicken or soy latte lyrics to be found here."[13] He also noted that, "'When I Was Your Man' goes minimal with the musical accompaniment, featuring just Bruno and his piano, sounding halfway between an Alicia Keys ballad and Prince’s 'How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?'."[13] Andy Gill of The Independent called it a "McCartney-esque piano ballad."[14] Melinda Newman of HitFix thought that the song "sounds like a cross between Stevie Wonder and Elton John," also seeing "a touch of Michael Jackson" in his delivery.[15] Sam Lansky of Idolator agreed, writing that "while evoking Elton John, the track sounds like it was recorded live in a piano bar, with audible background noise, like the spooling of film on a projector."[3]

Reception[edit]

Critical[edit]

The song has received generally positive reviews from most music critics. Sam Lanksy of Idolator gave the song a favorable review, calling it "an emotional ballad that shows off Mars’ sweet vocals." Lansky also praised it, naming it "another exceptional offering from Unorthodox Jukebox, which is shaping up to be one of the year’s best pop releases."[3] Andrew Unterberger of Pop Dust gave the song a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars, commenting that 'When I Was Your Man' is "a much more satisfying, less ostentatious ballad than 'Young Girls'— though maybe the lyrics are a little too clichéd to result in a classic soul ballad the way Bruno seems to be going for."[13] However, he praised Mars, which according to him, "nobody puts a song like this over quite like him, and when he hits the big high note on the song’s bridge, it’s about as striking a moment as you’re likely to hear on a pop record this year. It might be a little too perfect to be as devastating as a song like 'Someone Like You', but it might be a big hit just the same, and it’s guaranteed to absolutely slay in a live set."[13] Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly was positive, writing that "Old-school charm still gets Mars the furthest, and the best thing here is the classic torch song 'When I Was Your Man', which finds him at the piano listing all the ways he wronged an ex. 'Caused a good, strong woman like you to walk out my life,' he cries in his Sinatra-smooth tenor, oozing charm. Maybe he's a jerk. But he's the jerk that girl's going home with tonight."[16]

Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commented that "The piano tells it all on this song, which is one of the most certain on the album." Later, he stated, "If this isn’t the beginning of the Billy Joel comeback, people should lose their jobs."[17] Jason Lipshut of Billboard wrote that "it will make for a killer lighters-in-the-air moment in concert. Although it's not quite an Alicia Keys-esque powerhouse, 'When I Was Your Man' smartly allows Mars to momentarily remove his fedora and bare his soul."[18] Jessica Sager of Pop Crush opined that "It’s a vulnerable look at the ever-smooth Mars, and if it doesn’t pull at your heartstrings at least a little bit, you might not have a soul."[19] Jim Farber of New York Daily News wrote that in the ballad, "he matches his bravura performance to a tune stirring enough to inspire aspiring stars on the 'X Factor/Idol' axis for years to come."[20] Melinda Newman of HitFix called it a "beautiful piano ballad," writing that "There’s not a lot of embellishment, there are no samples and there is not a wasted note."[15] Sandy Cohen of The Huffington Post wrote that "Mars is at his best on the bare piano ballad 'When I Was Your Man'."[21] Andrew Chan of Slant Magazine gave a mixed review for the song, writing that "his melody and lyrics end up sounding as slight as they did before— an embarrassment for an artist who's staked so much of his image on sturdy, old-fashioned songcraft."[22]

Chart performance[edit]

Following the release of "When I Was Your Man" on iTunes, the song debuted at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[23] Later, after his performance on The Voice, the song re-entered at number 62.[24] "When I Was Your Man," jumped from number 49 to number 22 on the Digital Songs chart, with top Digital Gainer honors, selling 105,000 copies.[25][25] Later, "When I Was Your Man" jumped to number 9 with "Top Streaming" and "Airplay Gainer" honors on the Hot 100, becoming his 10th top 10 single. With "Locked Out of Heaven" at number 2, Mars became the first male artist to place two titles as a lead act in the Hot 100's top 10 simultaneously since his own "Grenade" and "Just the Way You Are" doubled up for eight consecutive weeks in December 2010/January 2011.[26] On February 27, 2013, the song jumped from number 8 to number 3 on the Hot 100 with "Airplay Gainer" honors for the seventh week in a row, tying it with Rihanna's "Rude Boy" (2010), T-Pain's "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')," featuring Yung Joc (2007), and Beyonce's "Baby Boy," featuring Sean Paul (2003), for the longest streak dating to the award's 1985 launch.[27] It also reached number one on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, giving Mars the highest total among solo males of number one songs there, with 6. Only Perry and Rihanna lead all acts with nine No. 1s each.[28] "Man" becomes Mars' fifth No. 1 on Radio Songs. Among men, Mars ties 50 Cent and trails only Usher (seven No. 1s), Ludacris and Kanye West (six) since the chart's 1990 start. Mariah Carey leads with 11 Radio Songs No. 1s.[29] It reached its one million downloads in the United States on February 27, 2013.[30] When the song reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, it marked only the second number-one song in the chart's more than five-decade history to feature piano and vocals exclusively; only Mars and Adele with her ballad "Someone Like You" have been able to achieve this feat. It reached its peak position of No. 1 in its 16th week after being discounted for 69 cents on the iTunes music store, making it Mars' slowest-peaking single.[31] This also marked Mars's fifth No. 1, reaching the same mark as Diddy, Ludacris, Prince and Lionel Richie. The only male who reached five leaders more quickly than Mars was Elvis Presley.[32] In the year end Mediabase compilation the song was the 15th most played on Top 40 radio stations in 2013.[33] The song became the ninth best-selling song of 2013 in the US with 3,928,000 downloads sold for the year.[34] As of January 2013, it has sold over 4,123,000 downloads in the US.[34] It was also the fourth most played song on radio and the eight most played on Top 40 and the eight most played on Adult Contemporary radios, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[35]

On the Canadian Hot 100 chart, the song was a success in its first week, debuting at number 45.[36] Later, it re-entered at number 48.[37] It has peaked at number 3.

In Australia, the song has been a success, debuting at number 44 on the ARIA Charts week of December 23, 2012. Later, it jumped to number 21. In its third week, it dropped to number 29, however, in its fourth week, the song climbed to number 18, becoming his eighth top-twenty single in Australia.[38] In its fifth week, the song gave a huge climb to number 6, becoming his sixth top-ten single in Australia.[38] In South Korea, the song was a success, debuting at number 9, on the "International Download Chart", with 15,732 copies sold. In the second week, the song remained at the top, with 53, 516 copies sold.[39] Later, it fell to number 14, with 11, 293 copies sold.[39] In the United Kingdom, the song has so far peaked at number 2.[40]

Live performances[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" was performed live for the first time on the season three finale of US The Voice. Mars performed the song with a piano player and a Hammond B3 player and no stage production except for blue lighting.[41] TJ of Neon Limelight praised the performance, writing that "he poured out his soul as he belted the emotional track with holy-freaking-amazing vocals."[41] Alexandra Capotorto of Pop Crush praised "his voice," calling it "as smooth as a baby’s bottom."[19] Malachi of The Honesty Hour called it a "showstopping performance."[42] He also performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on January 10, 2013. The performance had Mars with a Los Angeles Kings hat with piano and organ accompaniment.[43] Kat Lee of Pop Crush raved the performance, writing that "Bruno, you cut us to the core!," while she also praised his voice, calling it "the star of the show and rightfully so. The vocals on the recorded version of this song are impeccable and his live version on ‘Kimmel’ showcases just how talented Mars is."[43] Kyle McGovern of Spin wrote that "he swells and contracts with every new regret and heartbroken epiphany." McGovern also stated, "Mars might still be locked out of heaven, but it sounds like he's getting closer to the angels."[44] Story Gilmore of Neon Limelight also praised the performance, commenting that "Bruno served nothing but flawless vocals during the performance just as he did when he dropped by The Voice’s season three finale to perform the song."[45]

Music video[edit]

A shot from the music video.

The music video of the song was directed by Cameron Duddy and Mars, and was released February 5.[46] Mars plays a lonely balladeer who sits in front of a piano donning a pair of sunglasses with a half-full glass of whiskey, the video is based on 70s vibe and retro effects. The set and the idea of the video is similar to one used for "Love in the key of C", a 1997 Belinda Carlisle minor hit.[47]

Tracklisting[edit]

  1. "When I Was Your Man" - 3:49
  2. "Locked Out of Heaven" (Cazzette's Answering Machine Mix) - 5:04

Credits and personnel[edit]

Recording
Personnel
  • Engineer – Charles Moniz (additional)
  • Mixing – Manny Marroquin
  • Mastering – David Kutch

Source:[49]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2013)Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[38]6
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[50]11
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[51]7
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[52]13
Brazil (Crowley Broadcast Analysis)[53]9
Brazil Hot Pop Songs[54]3
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[55]3
Czech Republic (IFPI)[56]4
Denmark (Tracklisten)[57]4
Euro Digital Songs (Billboard)[58]3
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[59]13
France (SNEP)[60]9
Germany (Media Control AG)[61]23
Ireland (IRMA)[62]6
Israel (Media Forest)[63]4
Italy (FIMI)[64]13
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[65]60
Lebanon (The Official Lebanese Top 20)[66]3
Luxembourg Digital Songs (Billboard)[67]7
Mexico Top Anglo (Monitor Latino)[68]6
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[69]7
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[70]4
Norway (VG-lista)[71]8
Portugal (Billboard)[72]3
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[73]10
Slovakia (IFPI)[74]3
South Korea International Singles (Gaon)[39]9
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[75]22
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[76]16
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[77]12
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[78]2
US Billboard Hot 100[79]1
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[80]1
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[81]1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[82]1
Venezuela Pop/Rock General (Record Report)[83]2

Certifications[edit]

RegionCertificationSales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[84]4× Platinum280,000^
Belgium (BEA)[85]Gold15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[86]3× Platinum240,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[87]2× Platinum60,000^
France (SNEP)[88]Gold75,000*
Italy (FIMI)[89]Gold15,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[90]2× Platinum30,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[91]Gold15,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[92]Gold400,000^
United States (RIAA)[93]4× Platinum4,123,000.[34]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2013)Position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[94]13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[95]10
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[96]50
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[97]16
US Billboard Hot 100[98]8
US Pop Songs (Billboard)[99]14
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[100]5
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[101]14

Release history[edit]

CountryDateFormatLabel
United States[102]January 15, 2013Mainstream radioAtlantic Records
Italy[103]March 8, 2013Warner
Germany[104]April 5, 2013CD singleAtlantic Records

Cover versions[edit]

Chart (2013)Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[106]
60

References[edit]

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External links[edit]