If you haven’t heard Mark Ronson’s dominating new track ‘Uptown Funk’, which features guest vocals from Bruno Mars, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last month. Not only does it currently hold the title for the ‘all-time most streamed track in a single week’ in the United Kingdom (at 2.49 million plays, if you wanted to know), but has been top of the singles chart for the last five weeks – and it’s likely to stay there with just how many people are talking about the hit, which is widely influenced by the funk and R&B of the 70s and early 80s. On it’s own, ‘Uptown Funk’ is something fresh, strangely enough, considering it’s re-used genres that haven’t been seen in the charts in decades.
Then, there’s the album. Uptown Special is Ronson’s upcoming record which, naturally, is home to the single, and it’s only when you’ve begun listening to the whole thing that you really start to see the bigger picture. The entire album is advertised to fit the same style as ‘Uptown Funk’, in which case it could be considered narrow in the kind of audience it attracts. While the single on it’s own is a raging success, do people really want to listen to an album that is an 11-track showcase of pure funk? You may be dubious at first, but the record is well worth listening to in order to form your own opinion.
Opening the album is ‘Uptown’s First Finale’, a track that’s much slower than anything you would’ve suspected. Gentle, jazz-fuelled melodies that feature the legendary Stevie Wonder may have you sold from the get-go, and even more so as the album carries on into ‘Summer Breaking’ which is yet again a smooth, slow tempo offering.
Things spice up with ‘Feel Right’, which features vocals from rapper Mystikal who, being from Louisiana, really puts a New Orleans jazz spin on the track. During the recording of the album, Ronson and fellow producer Jeff Bhasker decided to go looking for new talent that could be used for recording – their search led them to Keyone Starr, who lent her voice to the song ‘I Can’t Lose’ – material that puts together elements of Motown and 80s electro-pop. While that combination may not sound all that inviting, it actually manages to work, presenting yet another solid tune.
‘In Case Of Fire’ begins with influences of early 80s pop rock, adding yet another genre to the already versatile album. It’s at this point that you’ll come to realise that, while Uptown Special is marketed as a funk album, it takes so many aspects from so many different genres that instead of being closed-in on how it can attract different kinds of listeners, there’s actually something for everyone.
With that in mind, Uptown Special is really a masterpiece in its own right. Upon release, there’s no way it won’t completely dominate the album charts, much like its lead single has done in the last couple of months, and you really have to give it to Ronson for having the ability to put together something that ventures into practically unknown territory, but still manages to come out on top.