Charlie Butler takes a deeper look at the Mi-Soul Playlist. @CharlieBCopy ’24K Magic’ – Bruno MarsBruno Mars didn’t used to be this cool, did he? I always suspected the immense popularity of ‘Uptown Funk’ was due largely to Mark Ronson. But with ’24K Magic’ the singer-songwriter is carrying on his transformation from family-friendly popstar to an artist who commands genuine respect. After one play of his latest song you can tell it’s destined for heavy rotation at parties and on the airwaves. It shows off Mars’ versatility and draws on influences as diverse as West Coast G-Funk, 80s disco and late-2000s R&B. And Bruno Mars puts it together so well that even the vocodered vocals work perfectly.‘Cranes in the Sky’ – SolangeSolange Knowles’ third album, A Seat at the Table, is breathtaking. And the lead single ‘Cranes in the Sky’ is the perfect introduction to it. It’s a large, spacious ode to self-discovery and it’s no wonder the singer called the record her ‘project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing’. The song’s first line sums up that sentiment perfectly: ‘I tried to drink it away’ Solange sings plaintively. It’s a simple statement and is all the more powerful for it. This lyrical directness is reflected in the production: expansive strings, pared-down drums and a soulful bass line from co-executive producer Rapahel Saadiq. It’s music for today, free of frills and full of honesty.‘Blended Family (What You Do For Love)’ – Alicia KeysCompared to the last Alicia Keys song reviewed for these pages, ‘Blended Family’ represents a simpler approach to songwriting, more reminiscent of her earlier sound. The percussion is straightforward and the acoustic guitar riff repeats gently throughout the verses. Over this uncomplicated sonic backdrop Keys addresses a hugely complex situation: her relationship with her new stepson, his real mother (R&B singer Mashonda), and the feelings that inevitably arise when families move apart and then reform. A$AP Rocky contributes a smooth eight bars, giving his take on what is like to grow up with ‘four stepmums at nine’. ‘Blended Family’ is heartfelt, as all of Keys’ music is, and it serves as another reminder of her versatility and enduring quality.