Released 13th January
I’m yet to come across someone who hasn’t got an opinion on Mark Ronson’s monster hit ‘Uptown Funk.’ From the headphone-wearing sing-a-longers who synchronise their steps to each snare hit as they walk down the street (i.e. yours truly), to the cynics who express absolute contempt at the song’s supposed unoriginality, it is one of those songs that will serve as a cultural yardstick in years to come.
What Ronson has done with this single, in a similar fashion to his 2007 collaboration with Amy Winehouse on ‘Valerie’, is that he has cemented yet another reminder in the hearts and ears of society that he is a super freaking talented dude. However, given the enormity of the lead track, it is now near-enough impossible for him to commercially top what he has already achieved. There is no track on Uptown Special that quite has the same radio-friendly zeal but saying that, it doesn’t mean Ronson’s fourth album is by any means lacklustre.
It is a shame the album is overshadowed by the single because on the whole, it carries a similar energy and enthusiasm. To the critics that cry “imposter!” it is important to recognise that Ronson has never been shy of indulging in nostalgia. In fact, he actively promotes it; one listen to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black proves just that. The variety of influence, from Stevie Wonder’s harmonica melody on ‘Uptown’s First Finale’ and ‘Crack in the Pearl, Pt. II’, to the 80s R&B boogie synths on ‘I Can’t Lose,’ is quite refreshing to hear in Ronson’s music.
A triad of collaborations from Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker punctuate the album with dreamy elements of fuzz guitar and vocal psychedelia.
For a guy that started out as a Hip-Hop DJ, it is great to hear that influence remain true today. Ronson’s adoration for Hip-Hop is evident on ‘Feel Right,’ which echoes a James Brown-esque arrogance of 70s funk, with an ever-eccentric Mystikal yabba-dabba-do rapping all over jam.
The album tries a little too hard to sound cool and atmospheric at times, ‘Crack in the Pearl’ and ‘Summer Breaking’ are less easy on the ear than the rest of the album, particularly in contrast to songs such as ‘Daffodils,’ which is a groovy primer to the essence of the album, and also ‘In Case of Fire,’ which sees a first vocal appearance for co-producer Jeff Bhasker. The album isn’t particularly progressive or revolutionary, but acts as a funky throwback to an era long forgotten and is overall a solid album.
There is no escaping it; ‘Uptown Funk’ is an epidemic. Unless you purposely stay away from all forms of commercial media and entertainment, then expect to hear more super funky slap bass guitar and triumphant brass at every wedding and corny rom-com in the coming year. Whilst Ronson’s management will undoubtedly squeeze the pips out of ‘Uptown Funk,’ I don’t expect them to the same with such fervour as any other single on the album sadly.