Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Special’: Review Revue

Bianca Gracie | January 13, 2015 12:51 pm
Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars Perform On 'Ellen'
Watch the musical pair's fiery daytime performance of "Uptown Funk!"

After a five year-long hiatus, Mark Ronson is back with a new album — and boy is it making a statement! Titled Uptown Special, the ’70s funk and psychedelia-inspired project features current Billboard chart-topper “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars and “Feel Right” with Mystikal. At first listen, Ronson’s latest release is a refreshing and solid take on classic music that we’ve all grown up listening to.

Uptown Special released today (January 13) with much hype, due to its anticipation. But what do critics really think of the producer’s musical comeback? View their commentary after the jump!

:: Our friends over at Stereogum crowned it their “Album Of The Week,” stating: “But the whole thing, for all its lyrical leaps and its genre-dabbling and its retro affectations, hangs together as one of the slickest and most unashamedly fun mainstream pop albums in recent memory.”

:: TIME also approves of Ronson’s efforts: “There’s no denying that every inch and detail of the album rings with real skill and intelligence, and yet the success of Ronson’s work is still ultimately at the mercy of his collaborators. His work is immaculate, but reliant on hired help for real vitality. When your signature is polish, it can’t really stand on its own.”

:: A.V. Club gave the record an A minus: “Uptown Special’s overall tone features classic funk and R&B along the lines of masters James Brown and Stevie Wonder (who appears on the album). But the album is by no means restricted to those styles. The Steely Dan-informed breezy and beautiful ‘Summer Breaking’ is the first of three delicately vocalized tracks from Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. He taps into his falsetto on ‘Daffodils,’ giving the rock-guitar-spiked funk a groovy psychedelic twist.”

:: While Entertainment Weekly graded it with a B plus due to some languid moments: “Those loungier interludes, several of which are led by Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, get so dreamy they sometimes threaten to turn Ronson’s chilled-out moments into sleepy tab-closers, though several are saved by novelist Michael Chabon’s vivid lyrical contributions. Still, the cumulative effect of Special‘s contagious cool will keep hands up and bad vibes down—and if all else fails, just put ‘Feel Right’ on repeat.”

:: Rolling Stone was bold with their statement, giving the LP 3.5 out of 5 stars: “The magic is in the details. Mystikal conjures James Brown on ‘Feel Right,’ and Bruno Mars animates a Minneapolis groove with EDM builds on ‘Uptown Funk.’ It could even teach Prince a trick or two.”

:: The Independent cited its “panache for pastiche”: “Almost 10 years after he forged his fame and infamy – critics soon had it in for him – on the back of 1960s soul revivalism, he broadens his reach here to add funk and psych sounds, presumably to keep his new pitch from curdling as quickly as his repeat visits to the latte-soul bar did. An album of fresh pleasures is the pay-off, but don’t come looking to it for substance.”

:: Lastly, The Telegraph gave it a 4 out of 5 while praising the record’s nostalgic mood: “Rather, he expertly juggles and recalibrates retro styles, sprucing up past fads with modern studio technology and slick session players. Ronson’s oeuvre is gleaming, detailed contemporary pop tableaux that hit the nostalgia sweet spot, fresh enough for a new generation yet resonant with inbuilt emotional associations.”

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