If you couldn’t get Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars‘ infectious hit single “Uptown Funk” out of your head for the past couple months, then you were probably interested to hear what the rest of Ronson’s Uptown Special was going to sound like. Well, let’s just say that it was extremely ambitious for him to incorporate two under-rated genres, Motown and Funk, into dance-pop tracks. However, there was just a lot going on for one album and it left it lacking the magic that made “Uptown Funk” intriguing.
Singles-wise, it made sense that “Uptown Funk” became a huge hit. It has everything a popular song needs: a danceable pace, modern-yet-retro instrumentation, and a lyrical appeal so simple and catchy that it easily rivals that of Maroon 5‘s “Moves Like Jagger.” Uptown Special‘s second single, “Daffodils,” is also a smart choice in the sense that it showcases Ronson’s ability to also venture into the electro-indie scene.
I have to admit, Uptown Special does have a handful of potential singles. Are they in the same league as “Uptown Funk”? Maybe not. But each has its own appeal and stands out against the other tracks. Robson should strongly consider “Heavy and Rolling” for his next single due to its interesting blend of r&b, funk and electro-indie that somewhat works. Other spotlight tracks include the Santana-esque/future latin club staple “Summer Breaking,” the do wop-y “In Case Of Fire” (which successfully pairs retro instrumentation with modern lyricism), and the disco infused “I Can’t Lose” with its hint of Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller.” Ronson definitely has some tracks that will keep him on the map for a little bit.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the album was balanced out by three renditions of “Crack In The Pearl” (which includes intro track “Uptown’s First Finale” since it contains lines of the chorus), the rap heavy “Feel Right”, which makes the listener feel quite the opposite of the song title, and the nauseating hipster anthem “Leaving Los Feliz.” For an album that relies heavily on instrumentation over vocals, these tracks completely ruined everything Uptown Special had going for it purely based on the fact that they each were trying to accomplish too much at once.
Uptown Special is certainly an ambitious endeavor for Mark Ronson, and it’s not the worst album in the world by a long shot. It has its obvious strong points, but the lack of cohesiveness threw off the playful and retro vibe that its first released single teased at. However, the album proves that he can not only produce great tracks for others but also for himself, and maybe that was his goal all along.