The first bonafide big hit of 2015 is without a doubt ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. It’s currently on its 8th week at Number 1 in the UK charts, it’s been Number 1 all over the world and inspired many viral videos. It might come as a surprise to some that such a retro song has been so successful, but clearly some things just never go out of style.

‘Uptown Funk’ is a midtempo song in 4/4 with heavy influences of funk, soul and disco. It’s in D minor with an interesting lengthy structure of Intro/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Hook/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Hook/Breakdown/Chorus/Hook/Outro. Although there is a sung chorus, the real chorus of the song is the instrumental disco-like horn hook. The song is absolutely laden with hooks, from the funk bassline and guitar riff, to the bass vocal ‘do do’ hook. The verses are quite bare, with just the vocals over a beat, with the instrumentation gradually building up until the climax of the hook, adding guitar, bass, brass section, synth and backing vocals. The call-and-response backing vocals are also quite a funk/soul influence. You can really hear the influence of 70s and 80s artists such as Prince, James Brown, and Sugarhill Gang. Lyrically the song is about feeling confident and partying in the city.

Mark Ronson is known for his retro productions, such as his work with Amy Winehouse, so his arrangement and production is really what brings this song to life. Bruno Mars also pulls it off very well, his voice and attitude suiting this retro style. It’s very hard to resist the energy of this song, and I think people have been attracted to its nostalgic style in a music scene that’s increasingly experimental and electronic – it really stands out when not many big artists are making this sort of sound at the moment. And I say long may it continue!

 

Favourite lyric – ‘Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent, gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty’

 

Taylor Swift has been hitting the headlines recently for pulling her entire catalogue from Spotify. The streaming debate was re-ignited after her acceptance speech at last night’s AMAs where she said:

“To the fans who went out and bought over a million copies of my last three albums … what you did by going out and investing in music and albums, you’re saying that you believe what I believe – that music is valuable and should be consumed in albums, and albums should be consumed as art, and appreciated.”

Swift is not the first artist to withdraw music from streaming services. Ever wondered why you can’t find The Beatles on Spotify? Or AC/DC, or the Black Keys? Everyone from Thom York to Taylor Swift have called for a boycott of the service over unfair payment practices.

The cynics will say it is just a savvy way to drive up album sales and for songwriters to pocket more cash. But Taylor Swift has three hit albums behind her – at that stratospheric level of success, what she gets paid for her songs doesn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of her megabucks income.  The stand she is taking is for all songwriters.

Aloe Blacc, co-wrote one of the biggest hits of 2013 (Wake Me Up, with Avicii), but admits to earning no more than $4000 dollars from the streaming service. Lady Gaga notoriously only earned $167 dollars for one million plays of Poker Face.

Aloe Blacc

There is no doubt that music streaming services are considered to be the future – with Apple’s Beats and Google’s YouTube also rolling out subscription services. They are an essential part of people discovering and accessing new music. Music is actually being enjoyed by more people, more widely than ever before. So the work of songwriters clearly does have value, if it is in such high demand.

But songwriters aren’t the ones being compensated for their work. Streaming company executives have built their fortunes on the back of the labour and musical output of songwriters, it is only fair that they are paid their due.

Taylor Swift is not against streaming as a service. She is simply one songwriter standing up to the giants and saying: “You don’t pay songwriters enough”.