Mark Ronson has forsaken his beloved horns for the keyboard, but he’s lost none of his soul, rallying a cred-heavy list of collaborators both new and old.
Bang Bang Bang (feat. Q-Tip and MNDR)
Kicking off more synth explosion than bang, the lead single is an introduction that immediately dismisses Ronson’s 2007 record Versions. It’s a keyboard heavy affair, all catchy pop hooks and reworked French nursery rhymes. Q-Tip’s rap nicely juxtaposes MNDR’s occasionally irritating repetitive vocal with obligatory hipster intonations.
Lose It (In The End) (feat. Ghostface Killah and Alex Greenwald)
If the idea of Killah and Phantom Planet’s Greenwald collaborating inspires concern, it’s cast aside once the bombastic horns herald the entrance of Ghostface spitting intense rhymes before Greenwald provides crisp vocals. The rapper is centre of attention, and rightfully so, as the music ebbs and flows in accordance to his voice. The singalong chorus is an earworm if there ever was one.
The Bike Song (feat. Kyle Falconer and Spank Rock)
With its gimmicky title and bicycle bell sample this should be cringeworthy, but Kyle Falconer’s lilting Scottish voice matches the childish premise of riding your bike home and feeling aimless on the verge of adulthood. Ronson’s production is minimalist, proving that he knows when to hold back. Spank Rock’s cameo has a tacked on feel, but I challenge you not to bop along.
Somebody To Love Me (feat. Boy George and Andrew Wyatt)
A standout moment on the record, Boy George commandeers the song with piercing melody, complimented by Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt and his gravelly accompaniment. The calypso pop jam stops short of treading Culture Club territory with heartbreaking lyrics at odds with the mood.
You Gave Me Nothing (feat. Rose Elinor Dougall and Andrew Wyatt)
Taking a turn for the darker ends of dance, Dougall of The Pipettes fame plays the wounded woman with brassy depth, channelling any number of past Ronson muses. Wyatt’s falsetto is decibel defying as the chorus rings out with ‘You’re not my baby/cause you gave me nothing to hold onto.’ Sure, the lyrics touch cliché, but it’s cleverly masked with synth trickery and a killer percussive beat. Closest Ronson comes to a classic dancefloor tune.
The Colour of Crumar
An instrumental piece that sounds like it’s being recorded through a 1940s wireless radio. It may be Ronson’s attempt at contextualising his shift to electronic and makes the listener feel like jettisoning into space. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Glass Mountain Trust (feat. D’Angelo)
Damn, where has D’Angelo been the last ten years? His instantly distinguishable voice is visceral, its soulfulness permeating the layers of electronic haze present. The strange, almost pitchless tones he exudes are irresistible. It’s so rare to hear a voice imbued with such passion, associated with a specific genre such as R&B, meld exceptionally well with what is essentially a Ronson synth assault.
Jittery scratches marry multiple keyboard chords, to produce an overall Final Countdown vibe, quickly saved by xylophone-esque samples. Its value on a record that is already jampacked with musical meat is questionable, but it provides Ronson a moment in the spotlight after pushing himself into the production dark for almost the entire record.
Introducing The Business (feat. Pill and London Gay Men’s Chorus)
Who are The Business International? This song doesn’t so much deliver on its title as take a hip-hop attitude towards the rap/chorus combination. Pill raps over inspiring strings and rousing choral vocals, though the soundscape is characteristic rap meets classical fare.
Record Collection (feat. Simon Le Bon and Wiley)
It’s Simon Le Bon! With Mark Ronson! It could have gone horribly wrong but it’s close to pop perfection. Ronson takes a turn behind the mic delivering witty double liners in conversational tones allowing his British deadpan accent shining through, before Le Bon appears in the chorus singing ‘I only want to be in your record collection/and I’ll do anything to get there’. Oh you’re already there Simon. May you never leave.
Electro filler blah blah, sounds good but forgettable, blah.
Hey Boy (feat. Rose Elinor Dougall and Theopilus London)
Dougall exudes elegance as she sings of new, heart pounding love. It’s a down tempo, sweet number that breaks up the electro-fest Ronson has spruiked through most of the record. Think swaying in a summer dress under the sun and you’ve got the feeling this song inspires.
Strange jangly 60s guitar interlude, with organ synths, it’s a mod party that sits oddly amidst the pop electro of the entire record. I stand by the needlessness of these interludes.
The Night Last Night (feat. Rose Elinor Dougall and Alex Greenwald)
A fitting bookend to the album that Ronson’s oft collaborator Greenwald should feature, smooth vocals in tow. Unintentionally emotive, his vocals sit between Californian droll and pitchy weirdness. Dougall is sharp contrast, channelling Florence with the harp accompaniment. Soft but pulsing with underlying snare drums and synths, it’s ethereal and soulful in equal turns.