The next time you hear “Uptown Funk,” the infectious anthem birthed by DJ/producer Mark Ronson and recording artist Bruno Mars, think about this: it almost never was.
“I remember Bruno once saying like, ‘Man it just breaks my heart but maybe this song is just not supposed to be,’” Ronson recalled to me early last year. “From that initial creative point of it, it was so exciting. That’s why I was hanging on to it like, ‘We gotta make this work.’”
Good thing he did. A billion-view music video, Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, double-GRAMMY nomination and 9-times RIAA platinum certification later, “Uptown Funk” has gone on to top the 2015 year-end charts in seven different countries. Additionally, it sits as 12 on Billboard’s all-time Hot 100 chart here in the U.S.
“Now when I hear it and I just see people like go wild or dance or light up, it’s great,” Ronson told me, noting that he forgets about the long, stressful nights that went in to the record’s creation.
Coming off last weekend’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, Ronson and Mars now look to take home hardware on music’s biggest night. The GRAMMYs air Monday on CBS from Los Angeles, and “Uptown Funk” is up for Best Pop Song Duo/Group Performance and one of the evening’s biggest awards: Record of the Year.
“I’ve had a few (successes) but none of my own records have… you know, they’ve always been cult hits or ‘DJ records’ and stuff,” reflected the English-born, New York-raised producer on the success of “Uptown Funk” in 2015. “This is beyond anything I ever really thought would happen.”
This is Ronson’s third nomination for Record of the Year and if he wins, he’ll add it to the mantle alongside the award he scored thanks to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” Coincidentally, Mars and Ronson also were up for the category in 2014 thanks to “Locked Out Of Heaven.”
“You know, I had always heard about (Mars) even when he just started out and everyone around LA was like, ‘Oh yeah, this super-talented kid Bruno; he plays all these instruments (and) he’s a great songwriter,’” Ronson said. “I never met him and I got a call just to go in and we met and we talked about music…and I just really liked him so we started working on his second album.”
The DJ/producer has three GRAMMYs in-all, also nabbing Producer of the Year, Non-Classical and Best Pop Vocal Album in 2008 – a year that belonged to the late Winehouse.
“No one’s ever going to live up to Amy, you know in the way she was such a singular, incredible artist,” Ronson said of her. But while the two are never compared (and rightfully so), when MTV wanted to pay homage to Winehouse on the 2011 Video Music Awards, they called on one artist.
This story begins the way most good ones do: with a bottomless brunch.
My buddy Danny and I were down in the West Village partaking two weekends ago on a Saturday. I opted for the meatless version of Benedict: Eggs Florentine. I think he went with waffles or French Toast. Regardless, the dishes and the Bloody Mary drinks were both plentiful and delicious.
It was uncharacteristically warm on this late-January afternoon (what else is new this season, right?) and so we decided to walk over to Soho and check out some shops. I went with no intention to buy anything, which is akin to entering a Target with only one item to purchase or heading to the grocery store on an empty stomach.
Naturally, we made our way over to John Varvatos’ flagship store at 315 Bowery; the old CBGB’s, an iconic punk rock venue. There was an end-of-season sale happening and given that The GRAMMYs were right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to peruse the racks. Stephanie, my stylist, was working in-store and helped me find a couple of items before showing me to a dressing room.
Before we checked out (but I had no intention of buying anything!) Stephanie asked if I was invited to Varvatos’ New York Fashion Week event that Wednesday. I had not (yet) and so she forwarded me the e-vite. The showcase took place from 6 to 8 p.m., meaning that if I timed it correctly I could stop by just before signing on to the radio for my show.
JV was displaying his Fall/Winter 2016 collection and decided to do so in an unconventional way, ditching the runway to instead turn 315 Bowery in to a fun-house of sorts. When I returned to the store Wednesday, I was greeted by a completely redesigned space: gone were any signs of a retail shop, replaced curtained off rooms that had unique soundtracks, both live models and mannequins as well as copious amounts of imagery surrounding the collection’s theme: “Rock Is Dead. Long Live Rock.”
When you first walked in to the building, entering not from Bowery but instead the entrance off 1st Street, you were greeted with coffins and memorials to musicians who were killed by “Pop and EDM music,” “the record industry” and “the political system.”
And then the aforementioned political system was visualized: mannequins wearing suits with the faces of either one of the 3 Stooges, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton projected on to the heads. The Rolling Stones blared over the speakers as some of JV’s new pieces were worn by models, all of whom covered their faces with masks. Other items were framed and mounted to the wall.
As you turned to yet another room, rock began to gain life again. The Who’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2” screamed over onlookers Snapchatting and Instagramming the event. Varvatos printed the refrain “We Don’t Need No Thought Control” over a wall of bottom-only mannequins, leg crossed, modeling JV jeans.
Varvatos himself greeted those who came out to the show before you entered the final room: lit in bright white, with what I believe was the only live model sans mask.
It was great to see John and experience a rare fashion week event, especially one clearly cut from a different cloth. That bottomless brunch wasn’t too bad, either.
I am not a dog person. I never have been and up until two weeks ago I never thought I would be. There was never a specific incident; it was just a combination of never receiving a proper introduction to the pets and rarely being around one as a kid.
So, when I received a press invite from Madison Square Garden to cover a “Meet The Breeds” event for the upcoming Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to figure out a couple things: could dogs sense that I wasn’t a dog-person and/or could I overcome my… dog-phobia?
The results surprised me. View for yourself below.