Uptown Special (stylized as UpTown Special.) is the fourth studio album by English record producer Mark Ronson. The album was released on 13 January 2015 in the US and 19 January 2015 in the UK. Ronson dedicated the album to the late Amy Winehouse.
Uptown Special became Ronson’s first number one on the UK Albums Chart (with his previous two albums charting at number two), and reached number two in the Australian ARIA Charts and number five on the US Billboard 200.
The melody for “Uptown’s First Finale” was inspired by the first set of lyrics that Michael Chabon sent to Mark Ronson. Despite Ronson loving the lyrics he kept hearing the melody as if it were being played by Stevie Wonder with his signature melodica tone. Owing to this, Ronson decided to send a “Hail Mary” letter and the song to Wonder’s manager. Despite not expecting a response, a few months later Ronson was contacted and told that Wonder had recorded the part for him. Ronson said of the event “When I first heard it, it was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had. I was dumbfounded, speechless, whatever word you want to use, I was all of those things. I still can’t believe somewhere in a studio in Chicago one night, Stevie Wonder actually recorded a piece of music that I wrote. I’ve listened to it a hundred times and it still messes me up when I play it”.
“Summer Breaking” came out when Ronson met Jeff Bhasker in his house in Venice, LA to start working on Ronson’s album. Ronson wrote the chords and melody to the song in one night that Bhasker left earlier. Ronson stated “It’s something way more complex than anything I’ve done before, I don’t really even know the names of the chords – they just sort of came out of me.”
“Feel Right” backing track was recorded on a “whim”, before Mark went in studio with Mystikal, in Memphis. However “it worked out to be so well suited to his vocal style”. The two met in Baton Rouge with Bhasker and “[legendary New Orleans rap producer]” KLC, thanks to jazz musician Trombone Shorty, who gave Mystikal’s phone number to Ronson.
“Uptown Funk” had its beginning “out of a jam in Bruno’s studio in LA”. While Mars was drumming, Bhasker was playing the synths and Ronson was on the bass. After they “got the basic groove”, Philip Lawrence joined and they wrote the lyrics to the first verse. They finished the song in Toronto, six months later.
“I Can’t Lose” was written mostly by Bhasker, who came up with the idea of “drive through the deep south to find someone to sing it”. Ronson loved the idea “of discovering a new talent” and the two ended by up hearing a “few hundred amazing singers” in churches, nightclubs, bars and community centres. However they “had a very specific vocalist in mind”, who turned out to be Keyone as both of them realised as she started singing.
“Daffodils” riff and vocal idea first played in demo form and sent by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. The lyrics were written by Parker and Chabon in Memphis. Later Ronson, Riton and James Ford added the synths and Kirin J. Callinan “laid this insane guitar solo”, as described by Ronson. Finally, in the process of mixing in New York, Tom Elmhirst (the mix engineer) took some of the synths out.
“Crack in the Pearl” were the first set of lyrics sent by Michael to Ronson and Bhasker. The melody of the song started to form in Ronson’s head as he read the words of the chorus (“Is this how you pictured it?/Is this how you thought it would be?”). Ronson admits that is unusual for him melodies popping into his head, referring to the experience as “alley-oop”.
“Leaving Los Feliz” lyrics are based on “an ageing hipster who doesn’t want to admit that he’s too old to still be going to the party”. Ronson added, “it’s not semi-autobiographical at all”. He explained “Los Feliz is an artsy/hipster/musician area of Los Angeles”.
Regarding “Crack in the Pearl pt. II”, Ronson admitted that he had to bring Wonder “one more time!”.