DJ and producer Mark Ronson has announced the release of his 4th studio album, Uptown Special (January 26th 2015). Never referring to himself as a songwriter (hence 2007 cover album Version), Ronson’s first and third albums were written in collaboration with several artists, and this record will follow their tracks. When talking about the album on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio One show, Ronson mentioned song writing and production collaborations with Andrew Wyatt, Jeff Bhasker, Mystikal, and James Ford to name a few. The DJs then showcased two of the album’s tracks, featuring Bruno Mars and Kevin Parker.
Uptown Funk [9/10]
The first track released was the Bruno Mars collaboration ‘Uptown Funk’. Its intro creates the desire to sing ‘Le Freak’ by Chic with its disco clap and the Nile Rodgers’ style riff, but then the song breaks into its own beast with a relentless beat and Bruno Mars’ incredibly confident vocals. The lyrics aren’t too important in a dance track this powerful, but the hook “Don’t believe me just watch” make us imagine how great this would sound live – sadly an idea that might never face reality. It has the familiarity of either being an imitation of an old classic, or the biggest hit of the year… Knowing Ronson, it could be both.
‘Daffodils’ is apparently one of three songs on Uptown Special which Kevin Parker (Tame Impala, Pond) features on. The Australian psychedelic pop-rock mastermind worked with author Michael Chabon to write the lyrics for the song, which complement the track’s synth-pop feel. It works in a similar groove to ‘Uptown Funk’ but with the psychedelic notions of Tame Impala, being very similar in melody and structure to the band’s single ‘Elephant’. Its only obvious fault is that the leading riff repeats throughout the song in a somewhat inorganic way, seeming repeated rather than played, which allows for constancy but could equally be the source of an unwanted headache to some.
Overall, the songs are impressive and suggest that the record will be diverse, yet coherent through a strong funk and disco influence. It seems like Uptown Special will be closer in style to Ronson’s first album Here Comes the Fuzz than the last two, yet takes advantage of their experiences, like the Motown force behind Version, and the pop and synth of Record Collection. Whatever the album ends up sounding like, it’s likely that Ronson has scored a hit with ‘Uptown Funk’, which is unquestionably going to be heard everywhere soon enough.