Saturday, March 21, 2015

"how to explain the popularity of uptown funk?" (retro outlawed and vibe-infraction, continued)

Asks this ILM thread.... with some comparing it to "Get Lucky" and Was (Not Was)'s "Walk That Dinosaur"  ....   But is it, like "Blurred Lines", actionable?

Some interesting points made, e.g.

Clemenza, who quotes Greil Marcus on blues resurrectionist Robert Cray ("What really puts me off about [Robert Cray] is that you just can't do blues in the self-conscious way you can do a lot of other things. You can't get up and say, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, now I'm gonna do a blues song,' without immediately sounding ridiculous.") and says "I'll leave aside whether that's fair or not to Robert Cray. But that's what I think about when I hear something like "Uptown Funk": "Ladies and Gentlemen, now we're gonna do a funk song."

To which why dont u say something or like just die (dog latin) replies:

"I feel like this is a mounting complaint about 'new' music in recent times, and not without reason. A review of the US hipster-metal band Liturgy in Wire magazine this month was arguing that compared to the original Scandinavian black metallers, this band are very self-consciously 'doing' black metal and that even their more leftfield tendencies felt tokenistic or forced, whereas a band like Ulver at the time were genuinely pushing the boundaries of their abilities and what the genre could do."

Leonard Pine, who complains in Retromania-ish tones that "Maybe I'M the one who's getting old, but mainstream culture seems to be all about old shit. Music that sounds like peppy, modern sensibility covers of old music (see also Megan Trainer), TV shows based on films I liked as a teenager, films based on comics my granddad liked as a teenager. Maybe it's to do with money because the more something is safe and familiar to the larger amount of people the wider its appeal, and old people are more likely to buy a song instead of just rip/download it".

Doctor Casino defends: 

"i know jack shit about bruno mars's upbringing or w/e but i'm kinda imagining it like a tribute to his parents' music.... like what he heard around the house growing up. i guess that makes it like vampire weekend and graceland or something. or maybe not - all the sounds in the song (and the vintage black male fashions in the video) were pretty much totally disappeared from the wider landscape by the time he was six years old, if not from other outlets including hypothetical parents' stereos.

"so sure, potentially it's more arch and revivalist, a brian setzer deal as noted above - but it's kinda better than brian setzer. i mean it's a cool song. it would have been a hit back then too IMO. whereas it's hard to imagine "stray cat strut" or "jump jive & wail" actually competing with the hitmakers of their respective nostalgia eras.

"maybe another way to articulate this is that while the video totally presents a pastiche of fashions, lighting, scenes and camera angles you might have seen in an 80s video, it's otherwise free of LOL SEE IT'S THE 80S stuff. like it's pretty clear everybody is totally stoked to be dressing up like this, they know they look cool as hell and have always wanted to be in such a video. i'm struggling to think of a counterexample here, but, i dunno, it's not like weezer being on happy days or nirvana being on ed sullivan and the gag is that they don't belong there and they're cooler than those cheesy old-timey things that we make fun of now. or insert any rock/punk band that goes "back to the 80s" and it's comical that they're wearing hair metal wigs etc. and maybe i'm mistaken, or giving the song too much credit, but part of me really wants to take that as a kind of transgressive gesture, reclaiming some kinda bypassed or overlooked urban cultural forms with strong black and latino roots, refusing to wink-wink around them, and making them into a gigantic hit song."


Detailed appraisal  of Bruno Mars's postracial pop atemporalism and Mark Ronson as the chart's top retro-fitter for nearly a decade now, conducted by Chris Molanphy at Slate. This bit - cueing off the analysis of Billboard radio expert Sean Ross, who found more than a dozen potential sources and predecessors for "Uptown Funk" - reads almost like an inventory of potential future ligitations a la "Blurred Lines":  

"Isn’t the chant “Up-town/ Funk you up/ Uptown funk you up” a steal from the Gap Band? Yes, cross-pollinated with some early Sugar Hill Records. That stomping party-train beat—doesn’t it have the stank of post-disco James Brown? You know it, and Bruno’s lyric “Gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty” also owes something to the Godfather of Soul. How about those gurgling, Vocoderized vocal sounds—where have you heard them before? On classic funk records by Zapp’s Roger Troutman (as well as German synth-funkster George Kranz). Didn’t Prince protégésMorris Day and the Time patent that preening-vocal-plus-multi-dude-chorus approach? You know what time it is. And those syncopated horns—didn’t Rick James make his bones with that sound? What did the five fingers say to the face?

Sean Ross of Billboard points out that while "Uptown Funk" shot straight to the top, 

"many of the early ‘80s classics referenced were released during the worst period of a "disco backlash" that effectively kept all types of black music, not just disco, off of top 40 for three years, beginning in fall 1979..... the beginnings of rap, the return of disco to its R&B roots, the emergence of a second generation of funk artists, many of them influenced by new wave....  happened mostly off of Top 40's radar. Rick James' "Super Freak," a song that plays on Adult Contemporary stations today, reached No. 19 on the Hot 100 largely on the strength of sales. On charts that measured pop airplay only, it was mired in the 30s. The crowning of Prince as one of the decade’s breakthrough artists in the music press was spurred by two albums (Dirty Mind and Controversy) that got no pop radio support. Even "1999" was resisted by top 40 radio and had to be reissued after Prince’s breakthrough with the more overtly rock-flavored "Little Red Corvette."

The resistance to R&B crossovers finally broke down in 1982-83 as the result of a handful of records. Some were rock-flavored (Ray Parker Jr.'s "The Other Woman," Prince's "Corvette," Michael Jackson's "Beat It"). Some were just undeniable (Marvin Gaye's “Sexual Healing,” Jackson’s “Billie Jean”). Still, some of black music’s most exciting acts of the era were years into their hitmaking streaks before managing a crossover. Often, the biggest top 40 chart hit would turn out to be a less-enduring late career record. Ask most people to name aMidnight Star song and you'll likely get the No. 81 "No Parking (On The Dance Floor)" long before the No. 18 “Operator.”

"Uptown Funk" isn't the only recent example of a pop hit referencing an ignored R&B hit from this era. Disclosure's "Latch” recalls the shuffle of “Searching” by Change, the Chic-like Italian dance act fronted here by a then-unknown Luther Vandross. "Latch" broke at pop radio by riding the coattails of EDM, then engineered a reverse crossover to R&B/Hip-Hop and Adult R&B. "Searching" reached No. 23 at R&B in 1980, but never managed any pop airplay."

So 2014-2015 = The Year(s) That Post-Disco Finally Broke?

Actually that would have been the 80s career of Madonna, surely? 


This is the band that I immediately thought of the first time I heard "Uptown Funk"

But listening to this now, the resemblance seems to fade.  Obviously the sound of it is feeble compared to "Uptown Funk"'s modern steroid-stacked production, which feels like it belongs to the world of e.g. "Harlem Shake" as much vintage funk / postdisco / boogie etc.

So it's quite a clever concoction, alluding to the past, or various pasts, without exactly replicating anything. Unlike "Blurred Lines", which I vastly prefer, but which nonetheless is a vibe-replica of something very specific. 

The main thing  "Uptown Funk"  has in common with The Time's work is  a non-tunefulness. In the sense that there's not much of a song there, it's a groove. 

1 comment:

  1. not once in this post is it mentioned that "don't believe me just watch" is interpolated from a very modern rap song ("all gold everything")! if nothing else...