Published Jan 13, 2015Let's get one thing out of the way: musician-producer Mark Ronson isn't a singer, or someone who pretends to be. What Uptown Special represents is an ode of sorts to classic funk and R&B sounds. Lead single "Uptown Funk" (featuring Bruno Mars) is a number that you will either love or hate, but charges that the upbeat number comes off as musically lazy are unfair. Much like the album, it favour style over substance, and the "Atomic Dog" feel gives a sense of what the curated project is all about.
Tracks like the slowdown soul feel of "Heavy and Rolling" (featuring Andrew Wyatt) or the '80s hip-hop of upbeat "I Can't Lose" featuring Keyone Starr demonstrate that the album is all over the place, from a musical standpoint. Inspired by lyrics by novelist Michael Chabon, the unique melodies of "Uptown's First Finale" win you over and a track like "Feel Good" (featuring Mystikal) sounds pretty much like you'd expect and desire it to. Things manage to hang together overall, driven primarily by dirty funk guitar chords throughout the majority of the album's 11 tracks. "Crack in the Pearl" is fuelled by a moody backdrop and an exploratory soul sound and "Crack in the Pearl, Pt II" brings Stevie Wonder on harmonica along for the ride, while "Summer Breaking" is straight-up psyched-out funk by way of Tame Impala's Kevin Parker on vocals.
Uptown Special is unapologetic in revelling in its musical influences and ultimately represents a light and mainstream-friendly primer to funk and soul. (Sony)