For the past two weeks I have been non-stop singing “Uptown Funk” and yes I am in love with the groove of this song. Mark Ronson is a fantastic producer and writer (as are Jeff Bhaskar and Philip Lawrence who assisted writing this classic hit); and Bruno Mars has taken over the pop music world with his sweet dance moves and his hypnotizing voice. Just like Doo-Wop, Funk has taken over the billboard charts for a new generation. According to Billboard Magazine, “Uptown Funk” has been number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks in a row, had five million track sales, and has hit an all time Spotify weekly record of fifteen million streams.
Funk originated in the 1960s when James Brown developed his signature groove that emphasized the downbeats as well as included a funky bass line, drum patterns, hit guitar riffs, and those brass horns. Funk music is like a wet dream for dancers with an explicit downbeat for each four count measure and wiggle sound that brings you into rhythmic and danceable world. Not to mention the various instruments and counts that you can change movement, direction, and double time while choreographing a routine, as well as playing to the strengthens of the song as the horns come in with power, or the snare drum becomes the core holder of the lyrics. Let’s take “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown. The layers of Brown’s song from the solid downbeat of the snare, the smooth salutary feel of the brass section and part way through you start to hear the light tap of the cymbal as a simple guitar riff breaks through you can’t help but get your groove on.
Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” gives me that same feeling and connects right with your soul and brings you back in time. It has an old time feel like you are back during the original funky days of 60s strolling down the street with your crew. The song starts in slow bringing each instrument sound in under its own spotlight. The background singers breaking through the chorus at just the right moments interjecting simple lines such as “hot damn,” “ooh!!,” and “uptown funk gonna give it to you.” The horns and drums in “Uptown Funk” are the backbone of the song and really give it that funk feel that James Brown created over fifty years ago. The chorus is simple, but there are some simple lines that stick out within the verses such as “Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent Gotta kiss myself I’m so pretty” or “I’m too hot (hot damn) Make a dragon wanna retire, man;” each one is total genius.
Ronson took collaboration to a whole new level with “Uptown Special” by bringing in some of the best and really highlighting what each musician does well. On “Uptown’s First Finale” the harmonica playing is unmistakeable, and is the blues and soul man Stevie Wonder, while on “Feel Right” it still has that funk feel, but with a little bit of hip hop as the 90s rapper Mystikal creates an edge to this funky album. So is funk back? Will other artists start to bring in brass into their music? Time will tell, but I think it is safe to say that the upcoming generation wants to get their boogie shoes on and take a ride to funky town.