Mark Ronson on 2015’s Biggest Song, “Uptown Funk”

A DJ's Best Friend

Feb 18, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Bookmark and Share


I can't even finish my question before Mark Ronson answers it. "How does it feel to have a song that...?" I ask, and he replies "...will be played at weddings for the rest of time" without missing a beat. Needless to say, he has heard this question before, and he's well aware that "Uptown Funk," the inescapable disco-pop anthem he wrote with Bruno Mars, has graduated to the list of songs that will provide the backdrop for public celebrations for as long as mirror balls reflect light.

In the span of a year, the song's video has been viewed over a billion (!) times on YouTube, topped the Billboard Hot 100 on the way to being declared their #1 song of 2015, and lifted Ronson's Uptown Special to the precipice of the U.K. albums chart. Suddenly, for the first time since his richly organic production helped Amy Winehouse's Back to Black become an international smash, Ronson is again the man whose deft touch people want on their records. Taken together, it's easy to forget that before "Uptown Funk" Ronson had become a bit of a forgotten man.

"I was definitely a little bit...cold," he says, searching for the appropriate description. "I have no problems saying that, because I'm really good friends with other really talented producers who are in demand, and they're like, 'Oh yeah, you didn't get a call to work on the Adele record?' And you know what they're working on, and you know you're not getting those calls. You're like, 'Cool. I know I made some great shit. If I'm known as the Back to Black guy for the rest of my life, I'm really proud of that. It's fine.'"

If Ronson had been forgotten, it certainly wasn't due to inactivity. Record Collection, his 2010 release, was greeted with mixed reviews and featured only one single that managed to land in the Top 10 of the U.K. singles chart. He stayed busy as a producer, working with everyone from Paul McCartney to Lil' Wayne and Duran Duran, but he was no longer perceived as the man with a golden touch. "When you're in the middle of one of the low points you're like, 'Fuck. This is it, huh?'" he says. "'What am I doing now? Music for Hyundai commercials?'"

Then, during an impromptu jam session with Mars on drums and producer Jeff Bhasker on Roland organ, Ronson locked into a deliciously simple groove, the "Venn diagram of what we really lovefunk, disco, soul music," Ronson says. In an instant, he was reconnected with the spirit of the R&B and hip-hop tracks that first made him want to make records, back when he was cutting his teeth as a DJ in clubs and at weddings.

"You know the value of a song to a DJ, when you're like 'What the fuck can I play now that isn't 'Y.M.C.A' that is going to get everybody on the dance floor, young to old?'" he says. "Obviously, there's Michael Jackson records, there's 'Crazy in Love,' there's Motown. But it's really fucking insane to think that we've made one of those records that is a DJ's best friend."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is its debut online. This interview was conducted before "Uptown Funk" won the Grammy for Song of the Year this past Monday.]

 

 

 



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