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Mark Ronson's Uptown Special

Super-producer can't keep up with that lead single

Despite an impressive guest list, Uptown Special never quite finds its groove.
Despite an impressive guest list, Uptown Special never quite finds its groove.

Rocketed to the top of the charts by the Bruno Mars–piloted hit “Uptown Funk” — with its Princely synths, Towering horns, and sly James Brown-isms (“gotta kiss myself so pretty”) — Mark Ronson’s latest is an ambitious homage to ’70s and ’80s funk and soul. While the well-chosen lead single fires on all cylinders, it feels like the rest of Uptown Special is struggling to keep up.

Similar to Ronson’s three previous albums, Special is a collaborative effort featuring an inspired guest list that, in addition to Mars, includes Stevie Wonder, rapper Mystikal, Kanye producer Jeff Bhasker, and Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon, who wrote most of the album’s lyrics.

Video:

"Uptown Funk"

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, from Ronson's <em>Uptown Special</em> album

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, from Ronson's Uptown Special album

With a lineup like that, you might expect a masterpiece, but as much as the album impresses, it also disappoints. The languid “Crack in the Pearl” never really opens up and, sadly, Wonder’s a waste — only providing his signature harmonica stamp on the album’s truncated opening and closing songs.

The laid-back, Andrew Wyatt-assisted “Heavy and Rolling” is a charmer, but the real star of Special is Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who lends his ethereal falsetto to three of the album’s best tracks, including the trippy-dippy “Daffodils” and hook-laden “Leaving Los Feliz.”

Reimagining retro sounds is familiar ground for Ronson; in addition to his own work, the super-producer took Amy Winehouse to new heights with Back to Black, her groundbreaking album steeped in the ’60s. Unfortunately, the uneven Uptown Special doesn’t quite find its groove.

  • Album: Uptown Special
  • Artist: Mark Ronson
  • Label: RCA
  • Songs: (1) Uptown’s First Finale (2) Summer Breaking (3) Feel Right (4) Uptown Funk (5) I Can’t Lose (6) Daffodils (7) Crack in the Pearl (8) In Case of Fire (9) Leaving Los Feliz (10) Heavy and Rolling (11) Crack in the Pearl, Pt. II
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Despite an impressive guest list, Uptown Special never quite finds its groove.
Despite an impressive guest list, Uptown Special never quite finds its groove.

Rocketed to the top of the charts by the Bruno Mars–piloted hit “Uptown Funk” — with its Princely synths, Towering horns, and sly James Brown-isms (“gotta kiss myself so pretty”) — Mark Ronson’s latest is an ambitious homage to ’70s and ’80s funk and soul. While the well-chosen lead single fires on all cylinders, it feels like the rest of Uptown Special is struggling to keep up.

Similar to Ronson’s three previous albums, Special is a collaborative effort featuring an inspired guest list that, in addition to Mars, includes Stevie Wonder, rapper Mystikal, Kanye producer Jeff Bhasker, and Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon, who wrote most of the album’s lyrics.

Video:

"Uptown Funk"

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, from Ronson's <em>Uptown Special</em> album

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, from Ronson's Uptown Special album

With a lineup like that, you might expect a masterpiece, but as much as the album impresses, it also disappoints. The languid “Crack in the Pearl” never really opens up and, sadly, Wonder’s a waste — only providing his signature harmonica stamp on the album’s truncated opening and closing songs.

The laid-back, Andrew Wyatt-assisted “Heavy and Rolling” is a charmer, but the real star of Special is Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who lends his ethereal falsetto to three of the album’s best tracks, including the trippy-dippy “Daffodils” and hook-laden “Leaving Los Feliz.”

Reimagining retro sounds is familiar ground for Ronson; in addition to his own work, the super-producer took Amy Winehouse to new heights with Back to Black, her groundbreaking album steeped in the ’60s. Unfortunately, the uneven Uptown Special doesn’t quite find its groove.

  • Album: Uptown Special
  • Artist: Mark Ronson
  • Label: RCA
  • Songs: (1) Uptown’s First Finale (2) Summer Breaking (3) Feel Right (4) Uptown Funk (5) I Can’t Lose (6) Daffodils (7) Crack in the Pearl (8) In Case of Fire (9) Leaving Los Feliz (10) Heavy and Rolling (11) Crack in the Pearl, Pt. II
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