Cultural Phenomenon: Music
Music is a cultural phenomenon that is present in any culture and progresses with time. However, there is an issue that historically connects the music almost of all genres mainly because of the deep roots of certain melodic variations. This paper investigates the song “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars by means of addressing to the songs of other historical periods. The analysis demonstrates that the enlisted songs have a lot of common aspects ranging from the general mood, lyrics, and tune to the selection of instruments and the structural features. It suggests that the artists of similar or even different genres intentionally or unintentionally borrow specific features of the most popular songs when producing their content. As a result, almost all musical genres preserve this mutual connection that has its roots in chord progressions, melody and rhythm. Moreover, it is possible to use these features for creating songs that would be appreciated by the audience.
The song “Uptown Funk” became incredibly popular being chart-topping single in various countries around the world. However, its popularity is not occasional but based on specific actions of its creators, which has led to the product that attracts the audience. As Mark Ronson explains it, “It is so heavy with hooks… and filled with references to other recordings.” This evidence means that the producer and the songwriters referred to the best aspects of other songs related to funk in order to create a hit. Among them is the accent on brass and bass sections, vocal variations of the singer, lyrics appealing to the audience, and repeating major key chords progressions. Experts state that one can undoubtedly hear some retro influences, which date back to electro-funk meaning that artists “grafted brassy ‘70s R&B to New Wave synthesizers.” All the mentioned components recreate the groove of the melodies that have been popular since the 1950s, which led the song to success. Moreover, scholars clearly see the influences of such artists as the Gap Band, James Brown, and Rick James claiming that separate components of their songs might be assembled in a new song multiplying their success.
One of the first songs related to “Uptown Funk” is “The Twist” performed by Chubby Checker and originated in the 1960s. Both songs have a steady rhythm and a brass section that highlights the parts of a refrain and serves as a unique melodic component. Although songs differ in their speed, they discuss popular dynamic dances, funk and twist accordingly. Moreover, the lyrics appeal to the public and the singer as if invites everyone for a dance.
For instance, in “The Twist” these words are
“Come on baby
Let’s do the twist
Take me by my little hand
And go like this”
Whereas in “Uptown Funk” the words are
“Girls hit your hallelujah (whuoo)
Cause Uptown Funk gon’ give it to you.”
At the same time, although both of these songs have connection, the further analysis demonstrates that they relate to other hits of different periods.
Say It Loud – I am Black and I am Proud
The song “Say It Loud – I am Black and I am Proud” by James Brown has almost similar structure and instrument choice as the previously mentioned ones. Its refrains are also intensified by the participation of the brass section, but have stronger accents on the bass section. After borrowing these aspects, the song “Uptown Funk” obtained “that stomping party-train beat.” Also, the singer appeals to the audience calling for a specific action to be done together, which is saying the words that are the title of the song. These funky and jazzy roots unite the songs of the modern time and their predecessors dated more than half a century ago. Moreover, these aspects make them popular disregarding the time factor.
“Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield is the next song in the playlist assignment because it is an important historical component of the analysis of “Uptown Funk.” As one can clearly see, this paper enlists the components, which Mark Ronson characterized as “hooks for public.” Without any doubt, brass and bass section represent these hooks, but in “Superfly” they constitute the background of the refrain part whereas the vocal variations of Curtis Mayfield are the focus.
Similarly, there is no call to the audience for some action, but the singer continues appealing to it,
“But if you lose, don’t ask no questions why
The only game you know is
Do or Die
Last, similar to other songs from the list, “Superfly” has receptions of melodic progressions in the major key.
Let’s Go Crazy
Another song that appeals to the public and has related hooks is “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince and the Revolution. Similarly to the songs of the chosen playlist, it has almost no chord variations but gives preference to a steady beat that supports repeating progressions. The accent of brass and bass sections at the end of each “loop” of the song intensifies the beat making it sound optimistic and creates a danceable rhythm.
As for the lyrics, it also has an indirect appeal gathering the audience,
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life.”
The repeating progression of the two chords on clean rhythm guitar strengthens the aforementioned factors and enables the listener to feel the groove better..
“Paper Planes” by M.I.A. is the only song that may look odd in the created playlist, but it has a specific connection to its predecessors that were chosen because of the modern influences in the music. Characterizing the music, it is simple and rhythmic with no brass or guitars but with pushy drum rhythm and a bass section supported by the sound of synthesizer with samples of gunshots and cash register. The chord progressions of the bass section and the synthesizer include three chords that keep playing through the whole song.
As a result, the singer draws attention with the lyrics and the discussion of one’s personality and wishes,
“All I wanna do is (Bang Bang Bang Bang!)
And (Kkkaaaa Ching!)
And take your money …
Some, some, some, I some, I murder
Some I some I let go.”
This feature is present in “Uptown Funk” as well,
“I’m too hot (hot damn)
Call the police and the fireman
I’m too hot (hot damn)
Make a dragon wanna retire, man.”
Consequently, each of the discussed songs has a singer appealing to the audience with the rhythmic dancing music at the background. One can clearly see that such songs as “Paper Planes” gradually become more popular than “Uptown Funk.” However, the critics state that this song was an unpredictable chart-topping catch-up being “to vintage electro-R&B in 2015 what “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Basket Case” were in the early ’90s to vintage punk.” Therefore, “Uptown Funk” is a vivid example of how a skillful producer and songwriter united the unique features of the popular songs in the history of music for making one of the modern hits.
Summarizing the presented information, the analysis of the selected playlist demonstrates that the producer, composer, author, and the singer of the song “Uptown Funk” skillfully used its triggers, which originate from other related musical products. Thus, the analyzed songs have been popular because of various issues such as repeated chord progressions, the accent on rhythm, the usage of bass and brass sections as intensifiers, appearing lyrics, and the charisma of the singer. This analysis also demonstrates that it is possible to create a popular song if one investigates the components of the musical hits of different times and creatively arranges them in a retro-influenced musical form.