Mark Ronson had his hand in many hits before he released Uptown Funk in November of 2014. He’d helped Amy Winehouse climb the charts with Rehab and produced Locked Out of Heaven for Bruno Mars, among many other tracks. The London-native is no stranger to the Hot 100. But Uptown Funk, an old-skool tip of the hat to the Funk, Dance, Hip Hop/Rap and R&B of the late 70s and early 80s, was his first #1 single under his own name.
Featuring Bruno Mars, the song debuted at #65 and danced all the way to the #1 spot in a matter of weeks. It became the first hit to stay in the top seat of three of Billboard’s charts for more than two months (Digital, Streaming, Radio), went on to become the longest-lived #1 of the 2010 decade, and repeated that sort of success internationally, hitting #1 on 30 charts worldwide and setting a new worldwide record for number of streams in a week with 15 million.
How’d he do it?
We explain it all in our Uptown Funk Deconstructed Report.
What follows are some of the key factors that launched Uptown Funk straight up town:
[Header 1 header=”Retro Vibe”]
Mark Ronson has shown throughout his career the ability to borrow ideas from other eras and modernize them for today’s radio. The success of Amy Winehouse’s Neo-Soul smash Rehab is a prime example. With Uptown Funk, Ronson takes his love of old sounds one step further.
With the use of vintage instruments such as Linn drums and a Korg Trident synth, a funky “doh, doh, doh” vocal hook ala Atlantic Starr’s Freak-A-Ristic, James Brown natured “hey, hey, hey, OW” vocals and the rapped “up-town-funk you up” vocal ala The Gap Band’s Oops Upside Your Head, Uptown Funk pays homage to late 70s/early 80s Funk, R&B, Hip Hop/Rap and Dance that was the flavor of the day during the Carter and Reagan administrations. Ronson and company actually borrow so heavily from the Gap Band and Trinidad James, in fact, that they elected to share the spoils and gave them songwriting credits.
[Header 1 header=”MTI (Momentum, Tension, Intensity) Fluctuations”]
Another nod to old-skool Funk is that the listener is taken on a dynamic rollercoaster ride throughout the song, which creates a very engaging listening experience. A perfect example of this is the three-part breakdown/build/release flow that embodies the song’s chorus. Note however that this is not a “traditional” Pop chorus as is indicative of many of today’s hits.
You can access the full MTI section excerpt from our Uptown Funk Deconstructed Report as a free download by clicking here.
[Header 1 header=”Clever Elements & Wow Factors”]
What really helps to put a song over the top is the inclusion of clever elements and WOW factors – Uptown Funk is chock-full of them. Some of the most notable include:
- The “girls hit your hallelujah”/“whoo” call and response within the chorus. The “whoo” also functions as an audience participation segment built directly into the song.
- The manner in which the song comes to an abrupt full stop after the intense chorus during the “stop, wait a minute” vocal at the onset of the second verse. This essentially functions to reset the song.
- The “doh, doh, doh” vocal-emulating bass line. It provides this key hook with increased power and impact.
- Vocal-flourish lyric accentuators including the kiss sound that follows the “gotta kiss myself I’m so pretty” line, and the whistle out to “Julio” to “get the stretch.”
These are just a few of the factors that made Uptown Funk a smash. The song is an infectious modernization of Funk from a producer with a clear love of the genre. With hooks, payoffs, dance grooves, catchy lyrics, and an ear for modern radio, it grabs the listener on multiple levels and refuses to let go.
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