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Hits decoded: 3 things that make the rhythm section of Bruno Mars’ That’s What I Like worth your time

The seventh US number one of Bruno Mars’ career is familiarly Bruno, but with some interesting flourishes. Here are three things that give the song’s rhythm section its distinctive groove.

1. A simple, spacious, syncopated drum pattern

Songs with a good groove often have the simplest drum patterns. Think of Get Lucky by Daft Punk, or Grown So Ugly by The Black Keys. Now, take a listen to the That’s What I like drum pattern, which we’ve recreated here, and you’ll see that it takes a page from that book.

Even before you hit play in our recreation of the song’s basic beat, you can literally see that there’s a lot of space in the pattern. Throw in a little syncopation - in this case, on the upbeat of beat two - and you’ll be grooving.  

2. An unexpected trappy flourish

While there’s something about the song’s instrumentation and upbeat songwriting that feels old fashioned, That’s What I Like is not a straight throwback to ‘80s and ‘90s funk-pop. Just listen to those trap hi-hats. You’d expect to hear them in a Mr. Carmack trap anthem - not a funky pop tune. Mars smartly sprinkles the trap hats on only the fourth beat of every other bar - just enough to tickle the listener’s ears and bring a slightly different element into the mix.

3. That bassline

We’ve noticed a (welcome!) new trend in pop of super-groovy basslines, perhaps facilitated by the fact that BPMs are slowing down. Think about the basslines in The Weeknd's Can't Feel My Face, Katy Perry's Chained to the Rhythm and Childish Gambino's Redbone. They’re artfully crafted and breathe life and energy into a song.

Similarly, the bassline in That's What I like is perfectly written. The bass glides between bars, syncopating together with the drum pattern, yet without taking attention away from the main vocals.  

What do you think of the rhythm and groove of That's What I Like? Let us know. Splice has compiled a collection of samples that sound like the instruments found in That’s What I Like so you can test your production chops by recreating the groove or make your own would-be chart-topper. Check it out on the Splice website.