Uptown Funk: How Mark Ronson Created an Instant Classic


If you were anywhere, and I mean anywhere in 2015 You probably heard Uptown Funk The song was a fresh, nostalgic take that dominated an already crowded pop environment And to me at least, Uptown Funk is one of those songs that I feel like I’ve always known Even when it was brand-new it felt familiar And that’s because it was meticulously crafted to sound this way Mark Ronson worked on the song for months, recording it across the globe In a number of gruelling, stressful sessions By devoting himself to this track, Ronson was able to create something timeless Let’s take a closer look at how he made this happen… In its earliest conception, Uptown Funk was just a jam that Bruno Mars and his band would fiddle with on tour When Mark Ronson joined Mars and keyboardist Jeff Bhasker For a jam session at Bruno’s studio, the song really started to get legs However, both Ronson and Mars had busy schedules so they couldn’t complete the song then and there. Instead they spent the next several months chipping away at the song In this time Ronson and company recorded parts in Los Angeles Toronto London Vancouver Memphis New York Bouncing around the world caused a number of drastic changes in the song One iteration featured a hard rock breakdown in the middle And at one point, the song was nearly scrapped entirely The stress over Uptown Funk was so high, that Mark Ronson even passed out during one session In an interview with Billboard Ronson recounted a session Where Bhaskar was leaving town at the end of the day and he wanted to Get the guitar part nailed before he left Having not figured it out by lunch, they went out for a break And Ronson fainted in the restaurant, vomiting three times They wouldn’t call It there, though… Bhaskar carried Ronson back to the studio, and together, they figured out the guitar part After 82 takes Ronson told NPR’s Fresh Air why he was so determined to make the song perfect In order to make that ear candy Ronson and Mars drew from something called the Minneapolis sound The Minneapolis sound was a spin-off from funk music Created in Minneapolis in the late 1970s and early 1980s It was pioneered by Prince This new sound pulled aspects of rock, new wave and R&B Into the funk genre And the result is music that plays less with syncopation and the rhythms. This allows for a more straightforward groove That gels better with pop music The Minneapolis sound also used more synthesizers in the music and boosted the guitar sounds This style carried on throughout the 1980s And eventually, its influence reached across a number of genres Including R&B, pop, and especially, early electro house and techno music And that’s why Uptown Funk has such a timeless feel. It’s rooted in a classic sound that has disseminated Itself across popular music for the last three decades However that very same influence that helps Uptown Funk feel so timeless Has also given it a number of issues. Ever since its release Uptown Funk has been compared to a number of other songs And faced lawsuits for this The funk group Collage claimed that Uptown Funk, and their 1983 song, Young Girls, were “almost indistinguishable” A Serbian pop artist by the name of Victoria also claimed that the song “contained 80% of” one of her tracks Ronson even settled one of these lawsuits giving some publishing royalties to The Gap Band After the band pointed out that Ronson had used a rhythm from their 1979 funk track Oops Upside Your Head, in the bridge Personally, while I recognize the similarities to a lot of these tracks I don’t think it means that Mark Ronson is a thief Instead I think it speaks more to the strength of Uptown Funk as a track It was carefully crafted to distill a certain funk and it did it to a tee In one interview Ronson addressed as much When asked if he heard similarities between Uptown Funk and the theme to The Really Wild Show, this was his response “Oh, then the horns, I understand what they’re saying, yeah, we owe a little bit a…” In the end, copyright infringement or not It’s hard to deny the catchiness of Uptown Funk And I think it’s not just a summer sensation from a few years back Or even just a wildly successful throwback single I think Uptown Funk is a timeless classic pop song And it’s one that you’ll probably be hearing on the airwaves for the rest of your life Hey everyone! Thanks for tuning in! If you like this video, please like, subscribe and turn on notifications And if you really like it, head on over to my Patreon page And if you want to keep up with what I’m doing Follow me on Twitter at watchpolyphonic