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When I Was Your Man

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"When I Was Your Man"
Bruno-mars-when-i-was-your-man.jpg
Single by Bruno Mars
from the album Unorthodox Jukebox
Released January 15, 2013
Format
Recorded 2011
Genre Pop
Length 3:34
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) The Smeezingtons
Bruno Mars singles chronology
"Locked Out of Heaven"
(2012)
"When I Was Your Man"
(2013)
"Treasure"
(2013)
"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 recorded by American singer and songwriter Bruno Mars for his second studio album, Unorthodox Jukebox (2012). Atlantic Records released the song as the third promotional single and as the second official single, taken from the album, to mainstream radio in the United States on January 15, 2013. "When I Was Your Man" was written by Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine and Andrew Wyatt; with Mars, Lawrence and Levine credited for composing the song as well.

The pop song is an emotional piano ballad with lyrics describing the heartbreak and regret Mars felt from letting his lover get away, and his expressed hope that her new man will give her all the love and attention that he failed to provide. It features Mars singing and a piano accompaniment as the sole instrumentation. "When I Was Your Man" received mostly positive reviews from music critics, who generally praised Mars' vocal prowess; calling it a "vulnerable and emotional ballad". The song won "Favorite Hit" at the 2013 Premios Juventud and was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. "When I Was Your Man" topped the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and reached the top ten on the singles chart of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom. It was certified quadruple-platinum in Australia and in the US; while in Canada, it was certified six times platinum. "When I Was Your Man" was the worlds eighth best selling digital single of 2013, with sales of 8.3 million copies; joining an elite group of the best-selling singles worldwide.

Cameron Duddy and Mars directed the ballad's accompanying music video. It portrays Mars as a "lonely balladeer" who sits at his piano donned in a pair of sunglasses while setting a half-full glass of whiskey atop it. Critics resoundingly complimented the simplicity of the video's production. The song has been covered by artists, including Mike Ward, who released a studio version of the song after he performed it on The Voice UK. Ward's cover peaked at number 60 in the UK Singles Chart. "When I Was Your Man" was also added to the soundtrack of the Brazilian soap opera Amor à Vida. Mars performed the song on the Moonshine Jungle Tour (2013–14) and at the 24K Magic World Tour (2017–18).

Writing and production[edit]

While working on the album, Mars said: "I'm never singing another ballad again," but that came from the gut – it's the most honest, real thing I've ever sung," he says. "When there are no safe bets, that's when I feel my blood move."[1] 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.[2] Philip Lawrence explained the inspiration of the song: "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."[3]

"When I Was Your Man" was mixed at Larrabee Sound Studios in Hollywood by Manny Marroquin. Bruno Mars played the piano, while the recording was done by Ari Levine at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn, New York and Levcon Studios in Los Angeles, California. Charlez Moniz was responsible for providing additional engineering to the recording, while David Kutch mastered it at Mastering Palace.[4]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" was written by Andrew Wyatt, Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine, while production was handled by the latter three production-team The Smeezingtons.[4] Having chord progressions Am-C-Dm-G-G7-C (verse) and F-G-C (chorus), the song is written in the key of C Major, with Mars' vocals range from the low note of G3 to the high note of C5.[5] The pop piano ballad finds Mars singing about a pre-fame heartbreak as he regrets letting his woman get away.[6][7] It starts with a rolling piano riff; unto a nearly 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", as he laments the "single state" he created for himself.[8] Next, he sings of his failings; 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".[8] Its title phrase re-emerges in the final chorus, juxtaposed by Bruno from all the things he "shoulda" done, into things he hopes his ex’s new man will do; concluding: "Do all of the things I should have done / When I was your man".[8] In an interview to Rolling Stone, Mars revealed, while reluctant, that he wrote the song for his girlfriend, model Jessica Caban, when he was worried about losing her. In contrast with the song, Mars and Caban stayed together; remaining a couple as of 2014. Mars also said, in the interview, that he finds it difficult to perform the song; saying: "You're bringing up all these old emotions again," and that: "It's just like bleeding!"[9]

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."[8] 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?'."[8] Andy Gill of The Independent called it a "McCartney-esque piano ballad."[10] 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.[11] 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."[12] Robert Copsey of Digital Spy said that Mars lists everything he should have done for the one he loved before she broke up with him.[13]

Release[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" was released as the third and final promotional single taken from Unorthodox Jukebox, on December 3, 2012.[12] Later, it was reported by Mars that "Young Girls" was scheduled to be the second single from the album.[14] 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.[15] To confirm the news, Mediabase also published that the song will be soon released to radio stations.[16]

"When I Was Your Man" was released as the second single from Unorthodox Jukebox. Atlantic Records serviced the song to mainstream radio in the United States on January 15, 2013.[17] The single was released on the United Kingdom on February 10, 2013 via digital download by Atlantic Records.[13] On March 8, 2013, Warner Music Group sent the song to mainstream radio in Italy.[18] It was released as a CD single in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland on April 5, 2013.[19]

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."[12] 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."[8] 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."[8] 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."[20]

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."[21] 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."[22] The Arizona Republic's Ed Masley viewed "When I Was Your Man" as one of Unorthodox Jukebox best tracks and described it as "stripped-down soul".[23] 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."[24] 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."[11] Sandy Cohen of The Huffington Post wrote that "Mars is at his best on the bare piano ballad 'When I Was Your Man'."[25] 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."[26] Digital Spy's Robert Copsey preferred "Locked Out of Heaven" to "When I Was Your Man", despite being "a kind gesture and all".[13]

Awards and recognition[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" won "Favorite Hit" at the 2013 Premios Juventud[27] and was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards,[28] and for Favorite Song at the 2014 People's Choice Awards.[29] The ballad was nominated for Break-Up Song at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards.[30] The song was one of the several winners of the 2014 ASCAP Pop Music Awards for Most Performed Song.[31] It was the fourth most played song on radio, the eighth most played on Top 40 and the eighth most played on Adult Contemporary radios, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[32] Mediabase ranked the song as the 15th most played on Top 40 radio stations in 2013.[33] In the UK, "When I Was Your Man" was the tenth pop track most played in 2013.[34]

Chart performance[edit]

North America[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" was released on iTunes as a promotional single, leading the song to debut at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[35] His performance on The Voice re-entered the song at number 62.[36] "When I Was Your Man" entered the top 10 the week of February 13, 2013, charting at number 9, becoming Mars' 10th top 10 single. At that time, "Locked Out of Heaven" was at number 2, and thus Mars became the first male artist to place two titles as a lead act in the Hot 100's top 10 simultaneously since "Grenade" and "Just the Way You Are" doubled up for eight consecutive weeks.[37] On February 27, 2013, the song jumped from number 8 to number 3 on the Hot 100 with "Airplay Gainer" honors for a 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.[38] The song reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, in its 16th week after being discounted to 69 cents on the iTunes music store, making it Mars' slowest-peaking single.[39][40] It also became the second number 1 song in the chart's to feature exclusively piano and vocals. Mars, Adele and John Legend are the only who have been able to achieve this feat.[41] With "When I Was Your Man" topping the Hot 100, Mars reached the same mark as Diddy, Ludacris, Prince and Lionel Richie. Elvis Presley was the only male who reached five leaders more quickly than Mars.[42] It stayed at number one for one week, before being replaced by P!nk's "Just Give Me a Reason."

On the Radio Songs chart, "When I Was Your Man" peaked at number one, becoming Mars' fifth number 1 on the 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.[43] On the Mainstream Top 40 chart, "When I Was Your Man" peaked at number 1, giving Mars the highest total among solo males of number one songs (six) on the chart (only Katy Perry and Rihanna lead all acts with eleven number one's each).[44] After a year, Justin Timberlake's "Not a Bad Thing" passed Mars for most number one songs on the Mainstream Top 40.[45] The song reached its one million downloads in the United States on February 27, 2013.[46] It became the ninth best-selling song of 2013 in the US with 3,928,000 downloads sold.[47] As of January 2014, it has sold over 4,123,000 downloads in the US.[47]

On the Canadian Hot 100 chart, the song was a success in its first week, debuting at number 45.[48] Later, it re-entered at number 48.[49] It only peaked at number 3.[50] Despite having peaked at the top of Canadian CHR/Top 40 and Hot AC charts.[51][52] It was kept from the top spot on Canada AC.[53] It was certified four times platinum by the Music Canada, indicating shipment of 320,000 copies.[54]

International[edit]

"When I Was Your Man" peaked at number 2, in the United Kingdom.[55] The song was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), denoting sales of 600,000 copies. On the Danish Singles Chart, "When I Was Your Man" debuted at number 23 on February 15, 2013. The song reached a high point of number 4 on March 8, 2013, and on March 22, 2013,[56] it was certified double-platinum by the IFPI Denmark, indicating streams of 3,600,000.[57] "When I Was Your Man" entered the New Zealand Singles Chart at number 26 on January 1, 2013. After three weeks the song jumped in the top ten, to number 4, remaining for two non-consecutive weeks, becoming its highest peak.[58] The single has received a double-platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, denoting sales of 30,000 copies.[59] In Australia, the song debuted 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.[60] In its fifth week, the song gave a huge climb to number 6, becoming his sixth top-ten single in Australia.[60] In South Korea, the song peaked at number 7 on the "International Download Chart".[61] In 2012, the single sold 38,178 copies and in 2013 it was able to sell 258,106.[62][63] Overall, the single sold 296,284 copies in both years.[62][63] Worldwide, it was the eighth best selling digital single of 2013 with sales of 8.3 million copies[64] As of January 2016, the song has sold 8,9 million copies worldwide.[64][65]

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 two piano players and no stage production except for blue lighting. Unlike, most performers he did not sing with a contestant from the show.[66] Rap-Up considered that Mars "rocked the stage" during his performance, while EW's Hillary Bussis found the crowd to "go crazy" because of his lyrics or persuading Mars "to ditch those Cee Lo shades".[67] [68] He also performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on January 10, 2013. The performance had Mars with piano accompaniment.[69] 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."[69] "When I Was Your Man" was performed at The Jonathan Ross Show after an interview, on March 3, 2013.[70] The song was performed at season five the finale of Let's Dance for Comic Relief, on March 9, 2013.[71] On April 3, 2014, Mars performed the song live on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Carl Williott called the performance "flawless".[72] It was sung on the show Vivement Dimanche, on April 7, 2013.[73] On May 26, 2013, the single was performed at the Radio 1's Big Weekend.[74] It was the twelfth song of his second and third worldwide tours, The Moonshine Jungle Tour (2013-2015) and 24K Magic World Tour (2017-2018), respectively.[75][76]

Cover versions and usage in media[edit]

In 2013, The Voice UK contestant Mike Ward performed the song during the competition. A studio version of his performance was released and peaked at number 60 in the UK Singles Chart.[77] Country singer Thomas Rhett recorded a cover of the song as a 'thank-you' to fans.[78] The song was released for sale on February 3, 2015 and it debuted at No. 27 on the Hot Country Songs chart and despite failing to reach the Billboard Hot 100, it peaked inside of the Bubbling Under Hot 100, which acts as an extension of the former chart, peaking at number 7 there.[79][80]

"When I Was Your Man" was included on the soundtrack of the Brazilian soap opera Amor à Vida.[81]

Music video[edit]

Development and synopsis[edit]

The music video of the song was directed by Cameron Duddy and Mars, and was released February 5, 2013.[82] The video portrays the taping of a TV special,[83] in which Mars is playing a lonely balladeer on the ivories while sitting in front of a piano with sunglasses donned and a half-full glass of whiskey atop his instrument, wearing a suit with a carnation boutonnière, while he keeps reminding himself of what he could have done to keep his lover.[84][85] The video is based on 70's vibe and retro effects.[86] 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.[87]

Reception[edit]

Rolling Stone, called the video "powerful" and a found "the final crescendo reaching a breaking point of true sorrow".[84] Chris Payne, from Billboard called the music video "somber".[85] Nicole Sia of Spin praised "the song's visual".[86] According to Lansky of Idolator, "the clip, which is basically just Mars...sitting and singing at the piano...works". He continued, "While he certainly could have gone for something a little more high-concept, the clip’s elegant framing just draws attention to...the song".[88]

Track listing[edit]

  • Promotional CD single[58]
  1. "When I Was Your Man"  – 3:34
  • Official CD single[19]
  1. "When I Was Your Man"  – 3:36
  2. "Locked Out of Heaven" (Cazzette's Answering Machine Mix)  – 5:04

Credits and personnel[edit]

Recording
Personnel

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Unorthodox Jukebox, Atlantic Records[4]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[140] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Belgium (BEA)[141] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[54] 4× Platinum 320,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[57] Gold 15,000^
France (SNEP)[142] Gold 75,000*
Germany (BVMI)[143] Gold 150,000^
Italy (FIMI)[144] 2× Platinum 60,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[145] 2× Platinum 120,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[59] 2× Platinum 30,000*
Sweden (GLF)[133] Platinum 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[146] Platinum 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[147] Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[148] 6× Platinum 6,000,000double-dagger
Venezuela (APFV)[149] Platinum 10,000^
Streaming
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[150] 2× Platinum 3,600,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Promotional release[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Worldwide December 3, 2012 Digital download
(iTunes countdown single)
Atlantic [12]

Single release[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
United States January 15, 2013 Mainstream radio Atlantic [17]
United Kingdom February 10, 2013 Digital download [13]
Italy March 8, 2013 Mainstream radio Warner [18]
Germany April 5, 2013 CD single Atlantic [19]
Austria
Switzerland

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External links[edit]