The Irony Of Mark Ronson And Bruno Mars’ UpTown Funk Grammy Win

February 17, 2016  |  

AP

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars certainly came out as the big winners for UpTown Funk during this year’s Grammy Awards huh?

If you weren’t aware, the global smash hit, which according to Wikipedia spent 14-weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, seven weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart and also topped the charts in Australia, Canada, France, Ireland and New Zealand, took home Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Of course, this news comes as no surprise to anyone with ears. In short: the damn song is everywhere. It can be heard in gyms, in grocery and department stores and during little kids dance recitals all across America.

It’s catchy. It’s hip. It’s fun. And more importantly, it sounds vaguely familiar to a bunch of songs we’ve all heard – and liked – before.

And during their acceptance speech for Record of the Year, Ronson and Mars made sure to give a super dope shout out to many of those familiar sounds. In particular, Ronson said:

Um, I just want to thank, um, these guys [pauses to point to a group of men behind him] for being some of the greatest musicians, producers and arrangers around. And I see George Clinton, the man who has done more for the word ‘funk’ than we could ever hope to dream of in our entire lives. So I want to thank James Brown, George Clinton, [Jimmy] Jam & [Terry] Lewis, Prince, The Meters, Earth, Wind & Fire of course…”

Ronson then invited Mars to the mic, who concluded the shout outs by extending a special thanks to the fans for helping to make the song the classic smash hit it is today. Ironically, who wasn’t thanked, or even mentioned by name, was Charlie Wilson and the rest of the members of The Gap Band.

As reported last year by Billboard Magazine Wilson and his band mates were added on as the single’s co-writers after the group’s publishing company filed a claim on their behalf, alleging that Ronson and Mars had infringed on the band’s 1979 hit song, “I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops, Up Side Your Head).”

More specifically Billboard reported:

Sources tell Billboard that the claim, which Minder filed into YouTube’s content management system sometime in February, put the song’s ownership splits at more than 100 percent. In those situations, YouTube stops paying publishers and moves the proceeds into an escrow account. The settlement, which sources say gives 17 percent to the “Oops” writers, frees up those monies, albeit with different songwriter shares going forward.”

It should be noted that, originally, UpTown Funk had four writers including Ronson, Mars, Phillip Martin Lawrence and Jeffrey Bhasker. But later, both Trinidad James, also known by his government of Nicholas Williams, and Devon Gallaspy were added on as co-writers for a “for a sampling interpolation” of their hit single “All Gold Everything.” As previously reported by Billboard, while the additions came without either a threat of lawsuit or prompting, their additions also coincided with last year’s win by the estate of Marvin Gaye against Robin Thicke over allegations of copyright infringement on another Grammy nominated song Blurred Lines.

Anyway, with the addition of The Gap Band, UpTown Funk’s total writing credits jumped up to eleven individual artists.

Of course, there are many folks who have pointed out that the song’s construction might take its inspiration from more than just 11 artists.

As Billboard writer Sean Ross noted in the piece entitled, “From Sugarhill Gang to Trinidad James, a Look at the Influences of Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk:”

Part of the excitement of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” the just-released kickoff single from the DJ/producer’s Uptown Special is catching the allusions to one early ’80s funk/R&B classic after another. Even on Ronson’s own Facebook page fans cite “Cameo horns, the Time [keyboards], and ‘Party Train’ [by the Gap Band] drums.”

There’s an irony here. Because “Uptown Funk” is effectively a new Bruno Mars single as well, it received instant airplay at top 40 radio, including the “world premiere” treatment from some iHeart Media stations. By comparison, many of the early ‘80s classics referenced were released during the worst period of a “disco backlash” that effectively kept all types of black music, not just disco, off of top 40 for three years, beginning in fall 1979.”

That includes the Gap Band, which has never won a single Grammy award (they were nominated once in the Best Instrumental category in 1983 for “Where Are We Going?”) and didn’t actually see any parts of the top 100 Billboard pop charts until they were already four albums in. This, in spite of producing classic cuts like “Dropped the Bomb on Me,” “Early in the Morning,” “Outstanding,” and “Burn Rubber on Me” as well as being number one at backyard BBQs all across Black (and some non-Black) America.

Let that one sink in for a few seconds.

This is no shade to Mars and Ronson because I kinda like UpTown Funk, and I’m not going to lie, Macklemore and his White guilt anthem got me feeling somewhat sorry for the white boys and girls all over the world whose only real crime in all of this is wanting to make music like their heroes – oh, and not paying folks. But still nothing irks my soul more than the blatant disrespect and erasure of Black folks’ contributions to American culture. And, honestly, if Ronson and Mars really wanted to show their appreciation, they would have had The Gap Band, as well as The Time, EWF and all the other groups mentioned, up on stage with them accepting the awards and performing along side of them – instead of giving shout-outs and accepting the award on their behalves. We wonder what uncle Charlie thinks about all this.

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  • Traboe

    I don’t like this song, didn’t like the song the first time I heard it. Just sounds like samples from a bunch of songs from back in the day mashed up together….and that’s grammy worthy? Lol *shrugs* of course it would take Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars for that type of music to actually be recognized and appreciated by the masses.

  • OSHH

    My goodness I loathe the song and have since first hearing it.

  • Purple Sound

    Lawd, if this isn’t reaching, I don’t know what is. I’ve done a pretty good job of living under a rock because I’ve managed to avoid the song and similar musical annoyances from today’s “artists”. I’ve read the article and mushed it over in my head and …. still can’t figure out why you’re so in your feelings. Judging by the similar comments below, I see I’m not alone lol

  • December86

    OMG!!! I am mad I read all of that! DONE!

  • Taneesha The Diva

    what is this article about? Lord

  • Andras Eugene

    The good thing about about UpTown Funk is that it reminds people to go back and listen to 70s and 80s Funk if your not happy with what your hearing today. Brilliant stuff that never quite got its due.

  • LNF

    How the hell this blog post gonna be so long as if it’s addressing a pertinent social issue? You coulda said all this in two paragraphs…

  • The Truth

    Uptown Funk is a copy of a combination of everything….Morris Day and the Time……Why don’t these Black artists get their recognition?

  • The Truth

    NOBODY is writing about VANITY…..WHY?…She was the most beautiful women in her time…..RIP VANITY!

  • pragmatic maxim

    I find myself longing for that variety. For the days when and older artist making a comeback had just as big of a chance as going #1 as some new artist coming in the scene, aka Tina Turner, The Commodores, etc

  • IanMC

    Acknowledging that you were inspired by someone else is nice but I dont see it as something you HAVE TO DO.

  • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

    Do we have to dissect everything these days?? Geez! I didn’t hear any specific Gap Band tune in this song. What I heard was plenty of inspiration from past funk artists that was molded into this awesome song. Just enjoy it and have fun. Or be a stick in the mud and complain about it. *Kanye shrug*

    • Annamuffin

      Pit bull song is clear rip off of murder she wrote…

      • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

        Which song??

        • Annamuffin

          The song he performed first

      • Taz

        Yea please tell me the song name! Been looking for it everywhere?

        • Annamuffin

          Yep, I hope these old school black artist sue the pants off of the new generation thief…

          • Taz

            No, I’d actually like the name of the Pitbull song. Lol

            • Annamuffin

              You liked it…

              • Taz

                Yup! Sure did. Apart of the problem right?

  • fiery skipper

    stop it. you obviously know very little about music. my god.

    • RJ

      Zip it clown

    • RJ

      We know Bruno is Tier 3

  • slimpickens2916

    I agree with this article in its entirety.

  • Noneyabiz

    Bruno is black

    • IntrovertedSE

      He said in an interview he was Latino. And he changed his name to Mars because people were trying to encourage him to go into Spanish music.

      • Jae Bee

        I thought he was some kind of Asian, like Polynesian or something.

        • IntrovertedSE

          He’s from hawaii but his dad is Jewish and Puerto Rican And his mother is Filipino with Spanish ancestry. I want to Wikipedia just to check. Lol.

      • CLE1978

        He’a mixed: Filipino and Puerto Rican.

      • Annamuffin

        He’s. Puerto Rican and Filipino

    • Homie91

      Bruno is nowhere near black.

      • pragmatic maxim

        …well, Puerto Rican is very much ‘near Black’…. at least when they want to claim it, that is. The long arm of slavery had a far reach my friend

  • Courtney Banks

    Boy this was a reach.

  • Guest

    Bruno Mars reminds me of Morris Day. Shrugs.

    • Toya

      I will agree to that before the GAP Band – Uptown Funk connection. The whole rollers in his hair thing bit is pure Morris Day in “Purple Rain”

    • CaribbeanGlow

      Me too. And I don’t like that song. I’ve never heard anyone else say it, but I don’t. It sounds unauthentic to me.

      • pragmatic maxim

        If we’re talking about the same song….it actually reminds me of something that group that was famous for a minute back in the 80’s around the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ frenzy would have made. The group that made ‘Re Boys Are Back In Town’ and that ridiculous ‘dinasour’ song

        • CaribbeanGlow

          I dont think I know the group, and the song I’m thinking of with that title is a corny pop song so I’m not sure I have the right one but I might since Uptown Funk is very corny to me. I thought Uptown Funk was a joke the first time I heard it.

  • The Truth

    Black music is Gold…and the only people that’s making money off the “Brown sound”is non-Black artisst. EVERY Female singer that’s making Big money sing “Black”…Where ARE all the Black female singers?…they are push aside and not able to make money because their sound is BEING COPIED by White females.

    Black music is being copied..and Black artist are being push OUT!

    Non black so-called artists are winning awards off of STOLEN, Sampled and Copied Black Music…..

  • cryssi

    I learned some things….not sure where I stand on the whole writers acknowledgement issue. It’s all a little murky to me.

    My Supa Dupa Fly, Pro-Black, anti-appropriation side is like, “YEAH!!! I see you and agree.”….but the other side that’s still Pro-Black is just like, “Hmmm, I like the song. That is maybe a bit messed up, but why aren’t we mad at The Weeknd for literally being one of the most copying mfs on the planet? I mean he stole Basquiat’s look, MJ’s sound and musical style, and a homeless person’s essence.”

    So yeah too murky for me, I always felt that the song was a case of appropriation….but my love for Bruno gives him an unwarranted blind pass.

    • IntrovertedSE

      I know what you mean. Its murky. Mark Ronson is involved in a lot of RnB hits. He worked with Amy winehouse as well (who is probably my favorite artist) and part of her sound was influenced by Motown.

      • pragmatic maxim

        And there inlies the problem. “Amy Winehouse” is your favorite r&b singer. Amy was good no doubt……but what about all the sistahs who couldn’t/can’t get the same type of promotion yet they are 100x better? Right after Amy passed the industry just immediately moved on to another ‘great white hope’ to focus their attentions and accolades on.

        • cryssi

          This argument has always intrigued me. I try to find indie artists, I’ve found a few that I truly enjoy maybe 1 or 2 of their songs….but really WE just aren’t putting out much good R&B. I wish we were, but I have to reach back to the 90s and the 2000s to find some that I love.

          I tried some new Vivian Green it was garbage. Where is Jill Scott? Erykah and Maxwell are consistently excellent. Musiq is now an auto-tune rapper. Beyonce has proven she can put out anything and the world would love it, yet R&B soul hasn’t made it into her repertoire yet.

          So Adele, Bruno, Sam Smith, and whatever Miguel/Prince Jr. is it is.

          • IntrovertedSE

            I agree. I hope it changes though. Maybe some people are discouraged because all the major RnB artists right now are white.

          • CaribbeanGlow

            I believe we’re witnessing the ultimate whitewashing of r&b that will be talked about by black people later the way we talk now about Elvis and others taking from Chuck Berry and how blacks invented rock and roll. I agree with you that the black artists we hear about don’t have great music. Part of it is the labels put money and promotion behind whites. Another part is they give the best songwriters and producers to the people they want to blow up.

            • cryssi

              Interesting points that I can not argue with.

            • pragmatic maxim

              Exactly

          • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

            Jill Scott has a new album out. They did a whole mini concert on Centric not too long ago. Check out DVSN, Lion Babe, Anushka, and The Internet.

            • cryssi

              Thank you!!! Okay, now I’m mad it hasn’t gotten any airplay…is it good?

              • pragmatic maxim

                …because we’re too busy praising Adele and saying that WE don’t put out good music anymore. We’re not checking for the Jill Scotts because mainstream media isn’t telling us to do so

                • cryssi

                  I like your other response better.

                  I trust Pandora with my laziness. Jill is on my customized station, either the songs never came on or I didn’t like them and thumbed down.

              • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

                Oh it’s sooooo good! She just continues to amaze me and yeah I hate that it doesn’t get the mainstream recognition. I hear her new songs on the soul satellite station from time to time but no where else

              • EmpressAfroPuffs

                It actually is one of her better works.

          • pragmatic maxim

            That’s just it. New Black r&b artist’s careers aren’t being developed and promoted like their white contemporaries so of course everything about their package, right down to the production value of their releases, will appear to fall short. They just don’t have The same money behind them—not even a fraction.The artists that you just mentioned are acclaimed for capturing the essence of/imitating Black voices when it comes down to it. I always prefer the thing in itself as opposed to its imitation, but that’s just me.

            • cryssi

              You really could have put all of this in one post lol

              • pragmatic maxim

                Oh well, but I didn’t. Are YOU gonna be ok is my question

                • cryssi

                  Lol, I think I’ll survive. Appreciate the artist recommendation though.

            • African Woman

              Amen! And it also comes down to what’s considered mainstream and mainstream is PC for white. And people prefer to support people who look like them which is why the Adeles, Amy Winehouses & Eminems will always do better sale-wise and promotion-wise with their heavily black influenced styles. You’ll also find some artists doing quite well outside the borders of America, especially where there’s more black people, and as a result a bigger appreciation of their art and message, unfortunately these countries don’t fall in the big markets category.

          • pragmatic maxim

            The older artists aren’t getting airplay nor will their videos be played if they they can find the money to finance and release one

          • pragmatic maxim

            Check out Maya Azucena

            • cryssi

              Thank you, appreciate it.

        • IntrovertedSE

          The great thing about music though is that I can like Amy and all the greats you mentioned. I usually prefer my RnB artists a bit older. Like I just can’t get into erykah badu. I usually like older and if I do listen to younger it’s Jasmine Sullivan, Amy, and a few other artists. My favorite thing about RnB is that it’s lyrically great (most of the time). My favorite thing about Amy was how she was clearly living her lyrics. Even though it was ugly and raw sometimes.

        • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

          It’s a problem because one of her singers just happens to be a “white” r&b singer? Give me a break. A black person doesn’t have to like a black person just for the sake of being black. Amy was a great artist and her being white doesn’t take away from that. Yes it’s a shame that some black artists don’t get the recognition they deserve such as Jasmine Sullivan, SZA, Lion Babe, Janelle Monae, or The Internet (who is my fav artist) but let’s not reach and act like Amy was just so HUGE in the states or something because she got a little above average attention.

          • pragmatic maxim

            Amy was huge. Anytime you get the “Tony Bennet treatment” as an artist….you’re pretty big.

          • pragmatic maxim

            Amy was huge. Anytime you get the “Tony Bennet treatment” as an artist…..you’re pretty big.

    • MsNisha929

      NOT A HOMELESS PERSON’S ESSENCE!!! Take me Lord Jesus!!! LMBAO

      • cryssi

        I mean I just don’t want him to touch me, I’ll give him some money, but DON’T TOUCH ME!

        This is the exact same way I treat homeless people. Like I see you, I understand, and I will do what I can.