Pop singer and composer Bruno Mars told Billboard that his second album represents his freedom and it is definitely not hard to get that impression from the first single released off it, Locked Out of Heaven. The song has been classified by critics as reggae with funk and new-wave influences. Entertainment Weekly described it as “Police-style reggae-rock”, while Allmusic felt it is more a “breezy mashup of Beat It, the Police, and Dire Straits”. The New York Times went as far as dubbing Locked Out of Heaven a “vivid carbon copy of Zenyattà Mondatta-era Police”. Even Mars’ staccato delivery was compared to Sting by Idolator.
On the other hand, Mars denied any conscious decision on his part to MTV News: “I don’t think it initially tried to sound like anybody else, but I picked up the guitar and just started playing”. Long-time friend and collaborator of Bruno’s, Mark Ronson was one of the song’s producers. In picking the 10 most representative songs of his career to Rolling Stone, he stressed the hard work that went into Locked Out of Heaven: “We must have worked on it for seven or eight different arrangements”.
The video of Locked Out of Heaven was filmed in a deliberately old-fashioned style, mimicking the look and feel of the VHS tapes. Mars described it as “old-fashioned fun” and explained the motivation behind the vintage character: “I love that man, it takes me back to my childhood, when the tracking is off and the color is off, there’s a beauty in that. You’d have to stand by the TV with, like, aluminum foil all over you.”
Locked Out of Heaven spent 6 consecutive weeks at number one in Billboard Top 100, being dethroned by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop (featuring Wanz).