Mark Ronson
Uptown Special


3.9
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
January 14th, 2015 | 100 replies


Release Date: 01/13/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Hot damn.

It’s not particularly remarkable that Mark Ronson was the one who finally snatched the Billboard Hot 100 crown from Taylor Swift’s clenched fists. The shock is that it took this long for it to happen. The British producer and singer-songwriter has been torching European charts for years, ever since his work on Amy Winehouse’s seminal Back to Black album defined his modern-retro pastiche and took Ronson’s work out of the warehouse clubs where he had made his name and into Grammy territory. That it took a guest spot from Bruno Mars to seize the #1 spot shouldn’t dilute the accomplishment. Indeed, it’s a fitting track for a producer with as shifting a sound as Ronson, one who doesn’t have so much of a signature sound as he does an expert handle on a wide tapestry of past styles and how they weave seamlessly into trends of the present. By collaborating with one of pop music’s great faceless chameleons, Ronson makes “Uptown Funk,” the record’s thesis statement, a deft summation of his own aesthetic, transporting his deliciously subversive sound to a wider audience through the pleasantly vanilla guise of Mars’ energetic persona.

A song with a title like “Uptown Funk” should be corny, terrible, likely flat, and, yes, a lot of the landmarks of the contrivances you would expect – machine-gun horns, overactive syncopation, inane lyrics – define the song. Yet “Uptown Funk” never feels dated; it’s vibrant and alive, a celebration of present moods through the prism of the past, another encore of a sound Ronson has meticulously curated over his career. Where 2007’s Version reimagined current hits in strange and kaleidoscopic ways and 2010’s Record Collection was an ill-timed shot across the bow for weird pop music (released today, there’s no question “Bang Bang Bang” would be a huge hit), Uptown Special is Ronson’s most straightforward record. It successfully nails the coke-dusted pleasure centers of ‘80s funk, James Brown and Earth, Wind & Fire while still stretching supinely across genres like psychedelia and jazz fusion, enlisting everyone from Mystikal (whose rap on “Feel Right” is a hilarious high point – “slapping kittens,” indeed) to uber-producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, fun., Taylor Swift) to smooth out the rougher edges of his vision. Few songwriters could marry the Southern gospel soul of newfound vocalist Keyone Starr with the cosmic synthesizers and retrofitted new jack swing of “I Can’t Lose” and then sidle that up comfortably next to “Daffodils,” where Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker takes Ronson’s squelchy, lush psych-pop to hallucinatory heights.

He’s certainly the only songwriter that has enlisted the help of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist to write the entirety of his lyrics, but that’s exactly what Ronson did with author Michael Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Telegraph Avenue). Chabon penning lyrics like, “Might have to wait to start in on your drinking / All of Hell’s Kitchen standing in that line / I’ll be here, living in my Lincoln / Occupying space and conquering time” that Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt croons with a sexual confidence on “Heavy and Rolling” is at once deeply bizarre and entirely normal. There’s little rhyme or reason to Ronson’s decision or Chabon’s lyrics, but they fit just the same. That juxtaposition strikes at the heart of what makes Uptown Special such an entertaining listen in today’s pop landscape. Ronson has made a career out of taking old sounds and reconfiguring them into something that sounds both in and out of its own time – fresh and exciting, yet with tangible threads floating haphazardly into the decades behind it, intertwined and hopelessly knotted up. In this respect, he remains the ideal purveyor of pop music in the 21st century, where influences are a click away and the biggest hits – “Get Lucky,” “Fuck You,” Channel Orange – engender that same kind of timelessness. Uptown Special’s greatest attribute, then, is that it could have been a hit in any decade, a slyly running commentary on the fluidity of modern pop music but one that never fails to forget what the people really want: to dance, dumb and delirious, and forget.




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user ratings (91)
Chart.
3
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2015


12136 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

bump this in the whip

wtferrothorn
January 14th 2015


5800 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Damn, I was planning on reviewing this, but glad it got the review it deserves. But I actually feel like the Mystical track is the lowest part of the album. The agressive delivery he gives just doesn't fit in the mood this album is trying to set. Every other track is great though, even "Uptown Funk" IMO.

klap
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2015


12136 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

the Mystikal track is definitely a bit of an outlier - doesn't really fit into the rest of the album at all. but I appreciate his delivery and the production enough to give it a pass

wtferrothorn
January 14th 2015


5800 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, the production on that track is a deliciously funky as the rest of the album, just not a fan of Mystical's style I guess.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2015


32190 Comments


I am so ready to call it quits with 'Uptown Funk'. It's a fantastic song, but at any one time about 5 radio stations will be playing it simultaneously

klap
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2015


12136 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

tbh i didn't even know it was on the radio until I started researching this album :/

wtferrothorn
January 14th 2015


5800 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, I actually really haven't heard it a lot on the radio, even though it's the #1 song in America right now. Then again, I don't listen to much of the radio.

AliW1993
January 14th 2015


7511 Comments


I've not heard the album yet, but the appeal of 'Uptown Funk' is completely lost on me.

SowingSeason
Moderator
January 14th 2015


31200 Comments


I was thinking of reviewing this because I didn't think anyone else would. Guess I got Guster-ed. Great review man, this is a very fun record.

Digging: Bad Books - III

Pangea
January 14th 2015


3046 Comments


I don't like Uptown Funk. I probably won't check this

Digging: Kishi Bashi - Omoiyari

Pangea
January 14th 2015


3046 Comments


Good review!

klap
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2015


12136 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

If you don't like Uptown Funk I would def check out one of the Kevin Parker collabs on here,

very different vibe



like this one:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuzSG3q68Kc

RadicalEd
January 14th 2015


9546 Comments


I only know uptown funk and I thought it was just a Bruno Mars single that I don't hate for a change. Guess i gotta checkt this.

ace review as usual

Pangea
January 14th 2015


3046 Comments


''If you don't like Uptown Funk I would def check out one of the Kevin Parker collabs on here,
very different vibe

like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuzSG3q68Kc''

Yeah, I like this one better. Thanks!


Sanders
January 14th 2015


2410 Comments


As much as I hate the xfactor, that lass' rendition of Uptown Funk was pretty decent

BigPleb
January 14th 2015


58464 Comments


Great rev as always Rudy, will be checking this.

Shiranui
January 14th 2015


553 Comments


This one works extremely well with klap's default.

WhiteNoise
January 14th 2015


3641 Comments


I've been waiting for funk to make a comeback. Is this it?

wtferrothorn
January 14th 2015


5800 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hopefully. Let's just bring the 70's back . Screw the 90s!

RadicalEd
January 14th 2015


9546 Comments


srsly. screw the 90s in terms of pop-music it's just garbage.



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