×

Album Review: Mark Ronson’s ‘Late Night Feelings’

He’s won seven Grammys and an Oscar, he’s tall and handsome, and “Uptown Funk” was his song — yet Mark Ronson remains one of the most low-key stars in the business. Picture him playing guitar or standing at a podium, flashy award in hand, next to Amy Winehouse or Gaga or Miley and you might say, “Oh right!,” but the “Back to Black” and “Star Is Born” collaborator has a surprisingly low profile for such close company.

In the context of this album, Ronson’s relative anonymity works in his favor when it comes to following up a massive global smash like “Uptown Funk” — because so many people assumed it was a Bruno Mars song, there’s commensurately less pressure on Ronson (from the public anyway) to follow it up. And as he said in a recent New York Times profile, he didn’t try, instead creating an album of what he calls “sad bangers” in the wake of a recent marital split.

While he’s far too dismissive of the fine songs and gorgeous sonic atmospheres here, there are no horn sections or bro-downs in sight: The guest vocalists are entirely female — Cyrus, Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys, Lykke Li, Angel Olsen, relative newcomer King Princess and a trio of hit songwriters less known as singers (Diane Gordon, Yebba and Ilsey) — and the vibe is chill without necessarily being low-key.

In fact, the album’s title is perfect. Far from the occasionally beery bluster of 2015’s “Uptown Special,” this one is more of a wine or relaxed mixed-drink outing: Think Massive Attack or the low-key offerings from their British progeny like Rudimental or Jess Glynne, or even some of Sade’s later work. There’s lots of echo, midtempo beats and distant strings or synths.

Cabello weighs in with what might be the most pop-friendly track here, “Find U Again,” which has a sultry melody, a comfortable groove and a mellifluous, vocoder’ed middle eight, and King Princess continues in a similar vibe and sound with “Pieces of Us.” Cyrus’ Tarantino-esque spaghetti-western opus “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” works much better in the context of this album than on its own — she remains, oddly, one of the most underrated star singers working today — and indie luminary Angel Olsen veers between deadpan and passionate in a strong showcase for her formidable vocal skill.

Similarly, Yebba shows off her formidable and versatile skills during a three-song stint that dominates the center of the album; Alicia Keys keeps to the chorus of “Truth” and cedes the spotlight to Portland, Oregon rapper The Last Artful, Dodgr (yes that’s one name, Tyler, the Creator-style).

Yet two of the strongest songs here both come from Lykke Li, who is also one of the more underrated yet distinctive singers working today. Her two contributions have some of the strongest melodies on the album, and her breathy, intimate delivery evokes Robyn and is a bullseye for intellipop fans.

As is most of this album. With “Late Night Feelings,” Ronson has served up a perfect post-night-out soundtrack, romantic and intimate — and a real album, with nary a weak track to disrupt the late-night feels (sorry).

Popular on Variety

Album Review: Mark Ronson’s ‘Late Night Feelings’

More Music

  • Azim Rashid

    Columbia Records Names Azim Rashid Head of Urban Promotion

    Azim Rashid has been named senior vice president and head of urban promotion at Columbia Records, SVP Promotion/Operations Jim Burruss announced today. The Sony Music label’s urban roster includes Lil Nas X, Taylor the Creator, Russ, Dej Loaf Dominic Fike, OBN Jay and Polo G, among others. Rashid arrives from Roc Nation where he also served [...]

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Universal Music Says ‘Many’ Suing Artists’ Masters Were Not Damaged in 2008 Fire

    UPDATED: Late Friday the attorneys representing Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac amended their lawsuit against Universal Music Group over damages to their music archives as a result of a 2008 fire. While most of the amended complaint updated details in the original document — adding information about UMG’s alleged [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Music fans listen to the band

    Woodstock Gets a Low-Key 50th Party With Ringo, Santana and That Album Cover Couple

    After efforts to stage a massive event celebrating Woodstock’s 50th anniversary failed to materialize, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York’s Catskills region became the only game in town. For months, organizers quietly promoted a weekend of concerts that would put the focus on the 1969 event and its musical and cultural [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen Drops Introspective Trailer for 'Western Stars' Film

    While initial reports about Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming documentary around his recent “Western Stars” album said that it would essentially be a concert film, the first trailer for it, which dropped today, suggests it’s going to be a more introspective outing, more in line with his autobiographical performances at “Springsteen on Broadway” in 2017 and 2018, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content