Our teen reviewers are still catching up from the holiday break. Bruno Mars first came to fame after his vocals were featured on the song “Billionaire,” which he worked on with Travie McCoy in 2010. Now he has released his second studio album, Unorthodox Jukebox, building on his musical creativity—he cowrote all the songs—while still perfecting the art of chart-topping singles. And how did I not hear about an auto-racing game set in Colorado? (My family might tell you that every time I drive, it’s like an auto race… ) I may have to give Forza Horizon a try myself.
Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars (Atlantic)
Unorthodox Jukebox is a great album even though it only has 10 tracks. Mars’s contemporary pop style is more infectious on Unorthodox as he mixes strong vocals with R&B, reggae, ’80s new wave, doo-wop, and funk sounds. Mars has a boyish charm, but he’s able to bring sincerity to everything he produces. This album shows us a more confident and mature Mars with a rawer, almost sleazier side, then lets us see some of his vulnerability. Definitely check out the new wave ’80s sound on “Locked Out of Heaven,” the breezy listening on “Treasure,” the Michael Jackson influence on “Moonshine,” the reggae steel drum jam on “Show Me,” and the beautiful piano ballad on “When I Was Your Man.” Bruno Mars shines on Unorthodox Jukebox and makes a strong statement to the music world.—Latyese M., grade 11, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Forza Horizon (Microsoft)
If you love the open road, Forza Horizon is the auto-racing game for you. Set in the gorgeous Colorado countryside, the story is based on the Horizon Festival. Races fall into themed categories, and you gradually build your skills by moving from one tier to the next, which heightens the sense of excitement. With the expansive terrain, great new features are the mixed-surfaces events and point-to-point races. Players need to vary their driving styles to handle the constantly shifting non-asphalt roads, which is both refreshing and challenging. The name of the game here is competition—and it’s embedded in the game play. Your speed is captured and posted on the leader board, as well as on Xbox Live for the whole world to see. Horizon’s multiplayer is very intense and action-packed, but the cooperative free-roam system also has a lot to offer and is probably underutilized. Overall Forza Horizon is a terrific racing game that provides hours of entertaining fun and features the thrill of exploring the Wild West. Rated: T for Teen Platform: Xbox 360.—James M., grade 10, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
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