Sometimes a pop song makes you sit up and think “holy shit, that’s good”.
They’re the pop songs that even your cooler-than-thou mate who only listens to mumble-rappers with fewer than 100 followers on Soundcloud likes as well. Songs that you go back to years later, and wonder why you’re not still listening to them daily. Mark Ronson has form in making these.
He did it with his rework of The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’ with the late Amy Winehouse. He did it with Bruno Mars on ‘Uptown Funk’, the chart-topping, Grammy winning funk-pop earworm that’s probably still stuck in your head almost five years since its release.
And he did it again on ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’, the outstanding lead single for his fifth studio album ‘Late Night Feelings’. The collaboration with Miley Cyrus is Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ on a big night out. With its melodramatic strings, twanging country guitar lines and Cyrus’ crooning over the top, it’s an undeniable banger.
Or as Ronson likes to put it, a “sad banger”. In fact he’s said that his latest album ‘Late Night Feelings’ is a collection of sad bangers: songs that make you dance and cry in equal measure. Throughout the thirteen tracks, he’s teamed up with a mix of the most recognisable vocalists around (Cyrus, Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys), as well as indie favourites (King Princess, Angel Olsen) to create a collection of songs about heartbreak that also absolutely slap.
Ronson’s collaborators are entirely female, something he told NME was just a coincidence, but Ronson expertly writes tunes to compliment female voices. Lykke Li’s ethereal whispers elegantly slide over lilting tropical production on smoky title track ‘Late Night Feelings’, while King Princess’ honeyed vocals float over buoyant ’80s production on ‘Pieces of Us’.
Meanwhile ‘Find U Again’, which features Camila Cabello and was co-written by Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, boasts squelchy psych-flecked synths and the former Fifth Harmony member fearlessly delivering a half-spoken bridge that’s surely set to be karaoke moment (and includes the excellent line: “This crush is kind of crushing me/I do therapy at least twice a week“).
However although the album starts strong with a flurry of hook-laden tunes, halfway through, it stalls. The sleepy, second Lykke Li collaboration ‘2 AM’ is a sluggish cut of weepy acoustic pop, missing the vibrant energy that permeates earlier offerings. And the there’s the 90-second, gospel-laced ‘Knock Knock Knock’, which feels like a needless respite, because although it boasts a stylish funk bassline and Yebba’s slinky vocals, the short aside doesn’t go anywhere.
There are some total gems on ‘Late Night Feelings’, which are occasionally marred by a handful of sleepy filler tracks. But in general Mark Ronson’s immense talent as both a producer and songwriter shines through. It’s bold, brilliant and genuinely interesting pop music, but really, what else did we expect from the man behind half of ‘Back to Black’. Viva la sad banger.