It was clear from the moment Uptown Funk was released in December 2014 – pushed forward a month by popular demand – that Mark Ronson’s status was about to change from a relatively successful British producer to a worldwide star. He capitalised on Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers’ funk revival, but was aware that this could only take him so far.
As a result, Late Night Feelings finds him abandoning the retro fetishism that has dominated his career to date, completely immersed in late-2010s pop trends, with mixed results.
Opening track Late Night Prelude lays it on thick with syrupy strings and an 808 walking bass, leading up to the disco-tinged title track. Lykke Li’s lovelorn delivery carries the track through its motions, including an odd tempo change two thirds of the way through, but it’s an underwhelming opener.
Main single Nothing Breaks Like A Heart remains the most powerful track on the record, top level songcraft with a guitar line that hints at country while not overdoing it. Find U Again has interesting elements, co-written by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, but Camila Cabello’s voice and the hook’s auto-tuned harmonies clash in a distinctly unappealing way.
The album is sequenced somewhat oddly, with three Yebba guest appearances in succession, the decent but unremarkable moombahton beat of Don’t Leave Me Lonely sandwiched between two interludes that don’t quite work. How much Ronson is relying on co-producers these days is an open question (Nothing Breaks Like A Heart certainly owes aspects of its sound to Jamie xx, whose name is buried in the credits), but the backing tracks here are mostly unobtrusive.
An exception is Truth, employing an earthy groove and gnarly bassline that prove a perfect foil for The Last Artfl, Dodgr’s charismatic verses that bring to mind Anderson .Paak. Pieces Of Us, meanwhile, features stylish and stylised ’80s drum sounds with dreamy synths that evoke pastel blue skies, a charming slice of HAIM-esque pop.
Ronson trailed this album as a collection of ‘sad bangers’, in a blatant example of false advertising. Most of these tracks would probably count as mid-tempo throbbers, and this aesthetic cloys a bit by the end of the record. In the same interview he also joked that this release exists because he “owes the label an album”, and this is evident in the filler that pads out an EP’s worth of good tracks.