I’ve been excited about Mark Ronson‘s new song, “Uptown Funk” since I heard Zane Lowe play it on his BBC Radio 1 show a couple of weeks ago. This song takes classic FUNK, throws it over a burner and heats it up 1,000 degrees. It is FIRE. With a bassline that just goes ON and ON and ON, I seriously can’t stop listening. “Uptown Funk” was co-written and produced by his buddy, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Bruno Mars, who also appears on vocals. It’s the first single off Ronson’s upcoming fourth album, Uptown Special, due January 27th (RCA Records).
Immediately following it’s release November 10th, “Uptown Funk” became the No. 1 most added song on Top 40 Radio at over 100 different stations and the #2 most searched for song on iTunes. As if that’s not enough to get excited about, the song’s YouTube audio stream has garnered over 1.2 million views! “DON’T BELIEVE ME, JUST WATCH!” While the undeniably sexy Mark Ronson is just getting started with promotional duties, he’s going BIG, performing “Uptown Funk” live for the first time as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live this Saturday, November 22nd with host Cameron Diaz. Joining Ronson on stage for his Saturday Night Live debut, Mr. Bruno Mars himself, of course PLUS a surprise guest who will join Ronson to sing on another new album track. Admittedly, I only tune in to SNL these days if the musical guest piques my interest. Well Mr. Ronson, consider my interest piqued…
I’ve been a fan of the 39-year-old since the release of his breakout, 2007’s Version featuring Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Robbie Williams, Daniel Merriweather and covers/re-interpretations of songs by Britney Spears, Coldplay and Ryan Adams—I have since gone back and rediscovered his impressive 2003 debut, Here Comes The Fuzz. While I typically gravitate towards a strong female vocal, a majority of the collaborations on ‘Fuzz‘ were male, and I didn’t mind. “Ooh Wee,” the album’s VERY GOOD first single featured Ghostface Killah and Nate Dogg, while follow-up single “International Affair” featured Sean Paul with some help from Tweet (of ‘Oops…Oh My‘ fame). The album featured collaborations with Aussie pop/soul singer (and future “Stop Me” singer) Merriweather (“NYC Rules,” “She’s Got Me“) as well as featured vocal assists from Rivers Cuomo, Mos Def, Jack White, Nikka Costa, Q-Tip and Debi Nova. Leave it to Mark Ronson to take a seemingly mismatched cluster of different artists from different genres, mix them all together and have it work. From what I gather, the new record was inspired by largely by Mark Ronson‘s musical beginnings and growing up in New York City during the early 1990s. He found himself gravitating towards hip-hop, funk, soul and R&B—each of which can be heard on any number of tracks from his 3-disc catalog, Ronson really seems to be honing in on this style on Uptown Special. According to Mark;
“No matter how my taste in music and DJ-ing veers over the years, I always find myself coming back to that music I would play out in hip-hop clubs in NY in the late 90s/early 2000s”,
Elaborating, Ronson adds:
“Biggie, Chaka Khan, Amerie, Boz Scaggs, Missy, Earth Wind & Fire, N.O.R.E….Those songs would set alight the dance floor. The NY club scene was filled with girls, boys, dancers, drug dealers, rappers, models and skateboarders who came mostly for one reason: to dance. And regardless of genre or era, if the song was good – if it had dope drums, if it had soul to it – they danced. Before smart phones, bottle service and smoking bans, people came to the club, found their spot and stayed all night, absorbed in the music. With Uptown Special I set out to capture the feeling I remember from those New York nights“.
The new album was written and produced with Grammy-winning producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Drake, Alicia Keys) over the course of 18 months in different studios all over the world, including London, Memphis, Los Angeles, and New York. Interesting fact about the new album—the lyrics to a majority of the songs (not including “Uptown Funk“) were written by Pulitzer-winning American novelist, Michael Chabon, who happens to be Mark Ronson‘s favorite living author. Chabon’s role in the project started early on and by the end he was completely immersed in the album’s narrative creation. I’ve honestly never heard of a published author being so intimately involved in the songwriting process. Absolutely fascinating! Other collaborators on Uptown Special include Kevin Parker (of Tame Impala) who adds vocals on three of the album’s tracks (Ooooh…potential “SURPRISE” guest on SNL?) including the ACE “Daffodils,” (which Ronson premiered on Zane Lowe‘s show) as well as drums, guitars, synths and backing vox on other tracks. Ronson’s longtime collaborator, Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) contributes vocals and songwriting assistance, while Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs) help with production. Other names lending their talents to the record—Simian Mobile Disco‘s James Ford (Arctic Monkeys), TNGHT‘s Hudson Mohawke, DJ Zinc and of course, Ronson’s go-to trio of Brooklyn-based musicians—Homer Steinweiss, Nick Movshon and Tommy Brenneck.
As AMAZING as it is to have established talent on your new album—having UNDISCOVERED, UN-TAPPED talent on your album is even better. With this idea in mind, Ronson and Bhasker took a little road trip across America, in search of a new female vocalist to spotlight on a couple of tracks. While their journey took them through New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Memphis, St. Louis, Little Rock and Chicago—the pair ultimately found their muse in Jackson, MI. 23-year old Keyone Starr impressed the power-house producers so much that they immediately invited her to record in the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, providing lead vocals on three Uptown Special tracks. I mean, how could you say “NO” to an opportunity of a lifetime like this?
As much as I’m loving “Uptown Funk,” I’m even more excited to hear the rest of the album. With this list of collaborators, I already know it’s going to be good. With a string of Grammy-wins under his belt already, could Uptown Special bring on another slew of awards and nominations? We shall see. In addition to being named ‘Producer of the Year‘ at the 2008 Grammy Awards for Version as well as his work on Amy Winehouse‘s Back To Black and Lily Allen‘s Alright, Still—Ronson took home two additional awards that year, sharing honors with Winehouse for ‘Best Pop Vocal Album” and “Record Of The Year” (“Rehab“). He received a Grammy nomination in 2014 for his production work on Bruno Mars‘ “Locked Out Of Heaven.” Other notable recent Mark Ronson production gigs include albums from Rufus Wainwright, Action Bronson and Sir Paul McCartney.
Check out the video for “Uptown Funk” BELOW which premiered on Yahoo.com earlier this week. The video was directed by Bruno Mars and Cameron Duddy and tune in to see Ronson and Mars perform the song live this Saturday on Saturday Night Live. Oh yeah, and buy “Uptown Funk” on iTunes. Uptown Special is out January 27th.