Mark Ronson and the Business International’s new album “Record Collection” opens with a bang. Or, more accurately, it opens with “Bang Bang Bang,” featuring Q-Tip and MNDR, a catchy song combining hip-hop and French nursery rhymes. Ronson is neither a typical musician nor producer, but he stand on strong ground somewhere between the two. Ronson’s incredibly strong musical presence can be heard in every song, despite the fact that he never sings a word. For the man who made his name producing Amy Winehouse’s “Back in Black” album and has worked with everyone from Christina Aguilera, to Jack White, to Ghostface Killah, nothing is unexpected. Each of Ronson’s songs is demonstrative of the considerable talent he possesses and the astounding effort he puts into making music, although some of his songs come out sounding over-produced. When he succeeds, he succeeds with style. When he fails, he fails with style.
The sleek “Lose It (In The End)” mixes the smooth vocals of Alex Greenwald with Ghostface Killah’s rhymes, while “Bike Song” combines the everyday sounds of bicycling with the vocals of The View’s Kyle Falconer and rap by Spank Rock. The result is a song that is so wonderfully crafted that the listener does not, on first listen, notice the many different layers at play. “Record Collection” is Ronson giving it his all, which makes some of his failures even more pathetic. “You Gave Me Nothing,” featuring Rose Elinor Dougall and Andrew Wyatt, front man for Miike Snow, sounds like a remix of your favorite slow jam that went terribly wrong.
“Glass Mountain Trust,” by far the worst song on the album, features D’Angelo, and while the vocals start out sounding like a chipmunk on helium, Ronson adds so many layers to the song near its end the listener can hardly perservere. These two coals in the bucket of diamonds are excusable, however, and they seem more like sadly misled efforts than failures of Ronson’s skill.
Some of the best songs on the album occur when Ronson directly references other artists. In the song “Record Collection” Ronson sounds as if he is channeling the Pet Shop Boys at the moment they discover rap, which is unsurprising considering the fact that the song features Wiley and Simon le Bon of Duran Duran. With a hook like, “I only want to be in your record collection/And I’ll do anything it takes just to get there,” Ronson guarantees that the catchiness of 80s pop comes through. However, “Somebody to Love Me” takes the cake for updating a classic theme. I can honestly say I’d never imagined what Culture Club would be like if it had been popular in this decade, but Ronson dares do to so with this song, which features Boy George himself as well as Wyatt. The very best of the album, however, is pure Ronson, perfectly blending music and vocals in “The Night Last Night.” The song’s lyrics, which are easily the best of any song on the album, are in no way ruined by the music, or by Dougall or Greenwald’s vocals. The end result is a smooth, carefully crafted song that is gently wonderful, rolling over the listener like only the best songs can.
While it would be foolish to walk around campus listening to “Record Collection” for fear of breaking into random dancing, Ronson’s latest collection lives up to the standard he has created. No other producer is quite like Ronson, and this shines through in “Record Collection.”