The most bombastic Christmas No 1 since Mr Blobby?
December 13, 2014 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars's 'Uptown Funk' takes over the UK. "Uptown Funk apparently took seven months to write and 82 takes before they hit pop gold. At one point Ronson – overwhelmed with anxiety – vomited."
posted by colie (40 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
First time I heard this single I thought the radio was left on the local "R&B/Funk Classics" station and this was some Dazz Band b-side I had missed in an earlier lifetime.

I guess it takes a lot of 2014 technology to make it sound like 1982 again.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:19 AM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess it takes a lot of 2014 technology to make it sound like 1982 again.

I know, right!

Still I really love this song for its pure throwback funk. One thing I truly miss about living in the 80s was the majesty of the funky music that was available and EVERYWHERE. It's far and few between these days, sadly.

But seriously? 82 takes? For Ronson to get his guitar part correct? That's truly overthinking a plate of beans. I bet George Clinton and P-Funk didn't do 82 takes of ANYTHING, ever.
posted by hippybear at 9:33 AM on December 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think it's less retro than Get Lucky or Blurred Lines, to which it seems to be a successor in terms of hugeness.
posted by colie at 9:48 AM on December 13, 2014


Mark Ronson is the charity shop version of those amazing pop hit machines from the past. He's like a sexless Prince, but with a casio keyboard set to 'funk demonstration'. A Phil Spector, but with a hedge of sound and a nerf gun next to his bed. When you want bland, efficient music to be hyped by the industry, Ronson's number is probably the first one you fax.

It's not like this is bad music, but it is simulacra music - music designed to be an imitation of music you have previously heard.
posted by The River Ivel at 9:51 AM on December 13, 2014 [18 favorites]


Well, to me it could use some Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. -- "Our pocket's pretty wide, so..."
posted by Trochanter at 9:53 AM on December 13, 2014


I guess it takes a lot of 2014 technology to make it sound like 1982 again.

Not really. You just have to run every damn thing through a compressor and get the synth patch right. Beyond that, it's just a matter of playing right.

82 takes altogether is not really a lot of takes for something like this. It seems to be multitracked and recorded in fairly short copy-and-pastable chunks; I wouldn't be surprised if there were 82 of those chunks, or if it took 82 takes to record all the chunks, or if the chunks were arranged 81 different ways before they hit on the final product. (If, however, it means Ronson took 82 takes to get the guitar part, then yeah, that is a fuckton of takes. It's not exactly a difficult part.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2014


Sys Rq: RTFA.
posted by hippybear at 10:09 AM on December 13, 2014


Mark Ronson's label and Simon Cowell's are both part of Sony. Simon has his act cover the song on X-Factor before it has been released, leading to lots of coverage of the "story" and an apology from the singer for going to top of i-Tunes with it before Ronson. Official single rushed out ahead of schedule, coincidentally in time for Christmas No 1. It's all a bit gross and desperate, and that's before you get to the 82 takes.
posted by billiebee at 10:23 AM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Simon has his act cover the song on X-Factor before it has been released

It was released on 10th November; Cowell's act Fleur covered it on 6th December. It was just a good song choice and Cowell then ran with the hype of allowing people to think he'd been up to something.
posted by colie at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2014


Whatever. I'm not sure why this is such a thing. It's such a washed-out retread/carbon copy of every Parliament track and every late-80s/90s Prince track ever (from the "hot damns" to the sub-"Flash Light" licks) that he and George Clinton should join forces and sue these fools for copyright infringement. If you want a good song with "Uptown" in the title that actually brings the funk, listen to the real thing.
posted by blucevalo at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I'm pretty sure Prince didn't vomit when he recorded that, either.
posted by blucevalo at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bruno Mars is a desperate earworm wannabe. SynergyGloboCorp keeps trying to shove him in my unsuspecting earholes and he just falls right out like poorly fitted earbuds.
posted by srboisvert at 10:40 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really liked their performances on SNL. I had never heard of this album and was expecting another predictable Bruno Mars upbeat number and be-stooled ballad. I unexpectedly enjoyed both songs, especially the Mystikal one which blew my mind. It was just really on point I thought. It was doubly shocking that an SNL music number made the performers look and sound like quality professionals and not like a screeching hellscape.
posted by bleep at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just thought it was like "Finally these guys figured out how to do music right. Finally. Thank you for forcing me to listen to something not terrible." All of them.
posted by bleep at 10:56 AM on December 13, 2014


It was released on 10th November

Nope.
posted by billiebee at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2014


US release was Nov 10th and anyone in the world with access to YouTube or Vevo or Spotify or a radio could have heard it from around then. People were uploading their own cover versions to YouTube around a month ago, why would it be any different for a TV show?
posted by colie at 11:24 AM on December 13, 2014


A lot of the vocal patterns in that song remind me of Trinidad James' "All Gold Everything".
posted by cloeburner at 11:27 AM on December 13, 2014


So that's what Morris Day and the Time are doing now.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:14 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not a big fan of Bruno Mars but that song is fun! The choreography is all kinds of great, too.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:32 PM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Morris Day and The Time were basically Prince with a frontman for a long time.

And yeah, I wish this was what Prince was doing now.
posted by hippybear at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is what The Time are doing now. Under a new name since they were tired of fighting with Prince.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:51 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really like this song, and I really like the direction Bruno Mars has taken more general - as a kind of remix, tribute singer for some of my favourite acts like Stevie Wonder, Prince etc.

Is it as good as good Prince etc? No, but shit man, those are some of the greatest pop songs of the twentieth century. I'll take enthusiastic homage (with no stupid rap bridge! Yay! That Usher was was just flattened by Nicki Minaj's pointless bridge) over the wan imitators that dominate most top 40, and aren't imitating something even worthwhile.
posted by smoke at 1:59 PM on December 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh, and I'm pretty sure Prince didn't vomit when he recorded that, either.
posted by blucevalo at 6:34 PM on December 13 [+] [!]

Prince alone in the studio
It's 4am.
and he finally gets that guitar track right
and it's better than anything any girl could ever give him
because Prince is alone

posted by rollick at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bruno Mars is sexy and so fly and can just WAIL so I'll listen to this all day long. It's Musicology's little cousin.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2014


“Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” (Paul Simon, 1986)

p.s. with a casio keyboard set to 'funk demonstration'.
That’s an excellent description.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:16 PM on December 13, 2014


gonna ride my bike until I get home
posted by jcruelty at 10:35 PM on December 13, 2014


(that's the anthem, get your damn hands up)
posted by jcruelty at 10:39 PM on December 13, 2014


with a casio keyboard set to 'funk demonstration'.

...except that Ronson is a multi-instrumentalist, and Mars - a live performer since the age of four - is known for running a James Brown-style band of superb musicians who are drilled to perfection. The guitar and drums are very real and all over this track.

It's EDM like Calvin Harris that really is a guy pressing a button on a Casio keyboard, only now they're made by Apple.
posted by colie at 12:38 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did it pass the Old Blue Whistle Test?
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 2:18 AM on December 14, 2014


hippybear: Sys Rq: RTFA.

Dude. I already had. I just did again. Now it's your turn.

Not sure what you think I missed. It says the song took 82 takes, it says Ronson took a long time to do the guitar part (implicitly a whole morning--o noes!--but maybe he rolled out of bed hungover at 11:45, which would explain the vomiting), but it does not explicitly connect those two facts. It also says, in the same sentence the 82 takes are mentioned, that it took seven months to write; does this also refer only to the guitar part?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:00 AM on December 14, 2014


I don't really listen to either of these guys very much, but hot damn, their SNL performance of this song was one of the most professionally carried off performances I've ever seen on that show. Everything about it, top to bottom.
posted by qnarf at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


2nding the SNL performance. For whatever reason it is really, really hard to pull off a good music performance on that show. I can probably count on one hand all of the holy-cow-this-is-great SNL music spots: Prince, Gnarls Barkley, Macklemore, and this.

Bruno needs to stop all that ballad crap and only do funk revival. Whether you care for it or not it's such an improvement over the "baby, please come back" drivel he's wont to do.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:57 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's saying something about SNL that "professionally done" is the highest praise we both thought of for a musical number. But I do think that there's something refreshingly grown up and celebratory about this type of music that's missing in other genres that makes it ripe for a comeback.
posted by bleep at 3:00 PM on December 14, 2014


Also, I should point out in true Metafilter Debbie Downer style, the guy on the far right of the funk line in that SNL performance, who also sang the entire second track that night, was Mystikal. Not exactly a happy story, that one.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:01 PM on December 14, 2014


Bruno needs to stop all that ballad crap and only do funk revival.

To be fair, this is a Mark Ronson track with Bruno Mars as the featured vocalist (as Ronson doesn't seem to sing).

I don't know what the rest of this new Ronson album is like. It would be awesome if it were all this great throwback-to-the-80s-throwing-back-to-the-70s style funk.

He's a busy lad, though. He's been working on the new Duran Duran album pretty steadily, too.
posted by hippybear at 3:04 PM on December 14, 2014


'Not exactly a happy story' is kind of an odd characterization of multiple instances of sexual and physical assault.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:06 PM on December 14, 2014


The song was performed again last night as a cover on the X Factor, and very interestingly it had two bars chopped out of the refrain section. Thinking about this, those two bars were actually one of the things that made the song such a big hit, seeing as it's really a very derivative song comprised of two chords and hardly more than a single note for much of the vocal.

But this is why the two bars were essential to the original version IMO:

The 'refrain' section is 8 bars long and starts with the line 'Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)' and ends with the first instance of 'Don't believe me just watch', before the horn line starts. This section combines the funk genre with the common EDM-style thing of a massively extended build-up to a 'drop'. Bars 5-7 have the build-up EDM sound rising the in background and bar 8 drops the music altogether.

But the trick is that in this refrain we don't get a foursquare hypermeter (meaning just phrase lengths that conform to multiples of two or four bars, as have characterised the song so far, and characterise nearly every pop song.) Instead they have been overthrown by the excitement of the EDM-style build up that intentionally confuses the ear by combining 3 and 4-bar phrases, overlapping, in subtly destabilising ways, within the 8 bars. So you get a structure which is:

- 3 identical phrases of 1 bar each ('Girls hit your hallelujah...')
- 3 new identical phrases of 1 bar each ('Cos uptown funk gonna...')
- 1 bar phrase ('Saturday night...')
- 1 bar phrase ('Don't believe me...')

So overall the sequence is 3+3+1+1, rather than either 2+2+2+2 or 4+2+2 or any of the more usual divisions of phrase groupings which we are used to and which the rest of the song conforms to entirely up till this point (all phrases are 1 or 2 bars in the quite ordinary verse sections).

The effect disorientates and excites the listener every time and it is this kind of recurring Esher staircase musical puzzle that the subliminal ear likes to calculate and recalculate endlessly. The production emphasises this because it splits the 8 bar sequence in two like it's 'expected' to be, with the first 3 phrases leading to a 'whoo' on beat 4, followed by the fourth phrase - which is lyrically a new one - but also contains the 'wooh' on beat four, while subsequent repetitions omit it. For the lyrics, it's 3+3, but for the 'whooh' it's 4+4.

Additionally, the 3rd repeat of phrase one is sung slightly differently, leading you to anticipate even a possible 2+2 structure, but duly that is discarded, and as the song repeats, the ear demands to alternately reinterpret bars 3, 4, and 5 backwards and forwards as either the start or the end of hypermetric units . Put simply, we are actively wondering how the phrasing is going to turn out every time we hear it, and by the time we've almost worked it out it's too late and the horns blow everything away in unstoppable, natural, 2-bar units.

On the X Factor last night the cover band and contestant, it seems, did not get their heads around this and duly performed a 2+2+2 structure of only six bars:

- 2 x 'hallelujah'
- 2 x 'Cos uptown funk'
- 1 x 'Saturday night...'
- 1 x 'Don't believe me...'

Which made it very simple to the ear, rather than endlessly intriguing, and an imitation of a pop hit rather than the peculiarly compelling real thing. These tiny touches are what make normal hits into megahits.
posted by colie at 6:48 AM on December 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


Wow, I thought it was bribing program managers with cocaine.
posted by Trochanter at 7:29 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


'Not exactly a happy story' is kind of an odd characterization of multiple instances of sexual and physical assault.

Apologies, I had no intention of belittling the magnitude of those crimes. Considering I was trying to draw attention to it, I felt it was implicit I wasn't happy about Bruno Mars including him in his group.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:53 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


colie, wow. Flagged as fantastic.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:08 PM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


« Older The Hobbit: How the 'clomping foot of nerdism'...   |   What Happened to the ‘Future Leaders’ of the 1990s... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments