The Meaning Behind Bruno Mars’ Regretful Ballad “When I Was Your Man”

When Bruno Mars started recording his 2012 hit “When I Was Your Man,” he vowed never to record another ballad again. “When we started the record, I was like, ‘I’m never singing another ballad again,’ but that came from the gut—it’s the most honest, real thing I’ve ever sang,” said Mars. “When there are no safe bets, that’s when I feel my blood move.”

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Still nervous around the release of the single, off his 2012 album, Unorthodox Jukebox, Mars posted on Twitter, “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.”

Mars’ Meaning Behind “When I Was Your Man”

The song, which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, along with the album, is one of the most personal stories shared by Mars, about a girl who once got away.

Same bed but it feels just a little bit bigger now
Our song on the radio but it don’t sound the same
When our friends talk about you, all it does is just tear me down
‘Cause my heart breaks a little when I hear your name

It all just sounds like ooh, ooh, ooh, hoo
Mm, too young, too dumb to realize
That I should have bought you flowers
And held your hand
Should have gave you all my hours
When I had the chance
Take you to every party ’cause all you wanted to do was dance

[RELATED: 12 Songs You Didn’t Know Bruno Mars Wrote for Other Artists]

“This song is about a special woman that I let slip away at one time,” shared Mars. “It’s a happy ending though. I put everything I got into that one. “You know, it’s one of those things where even girls can relate to this song. That’s how it works. Everyone makes mistakes.”

In the middle of some of the more sexually forward songs on Unorthodox Jukebox, “When I Was Your Man” is Mars’ most exposed track.

Mars continued, “I remember writing that and it’s the simple things, the little things, like, ‘I should have bought you flowers.’ I should have just let you know when I had the chance. And that was probably the most difficult song to write just because you know I’m so naked on that song, out of all the sexual songs I’m singing about, that’s the one I’m most vulnerable. And I think a piano and a vocal is the most purest form of music.”

Another Man

Further into “When I Was Your Man,” Mars faces regret, and the realization of his former love is with another man.

Now my baby’s dancing
But she’s dancing with another man

My pride, my ego, my needs, and my selfish ways
Caused a good strong woman like you to walk out my life
Now I never, never get to clean up the mess I made, oh
And that haunts me every time I close my eyes


Towards the end, Mars apologizes for his selfish ways and hopes that the new man in her life will do the things he never did.

Although it hurts
I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong
Oh, I know I’m probably much too late
To try and apologize for my mistakes
But I just want you to know

I hope he buys you flowers
I hope he holds your hand
Give you all his hours
When he has the chance
Take you to every party
‘Cause I remember how much you loved to dance
Do all the things I should have done
When I was your man
Do all the things I should have done
When I was your man

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

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