Uptown Funk… With an Extra Side of Funk

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars teamed up in late 2014 to release the smash hit “Uptown Funk.”If you’ve listened to the radio for only a few minutes of 2015, attended a wedding, or heard a live cover band including even a single horn player, you undoubtedly heard this song. You may even be like me, having heard (or played) this song so many times in the past year that it long ago reached its saturation point and now has about as much appeal as watching water evaporate. But for those of you who may have been vacationing in Antarctica or visiting the monks of Nepal (they take a vow of silence), check out the official music video and notice that it has over 1 billion views in less than a year since it’s release! The song certainly falls into the “funk” category – it’s got all the classic elements: repetitive 2-chord harmonic pattern, prominent melodic bass line, rhythm guitar drenched in wah-wah effects, retro-style synth sounds, thumpy bass-drum groove, and a brash, rhythmic horn section.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m not a huge fan of the tune, but I am saying that, in my humble opinion, it was a better tune when James Brown did it… in 1986, with his hit “Living in America.” Or when ‘Morris Day & the Time’ did it, with their song, “Jungle Love“… in 1984. Or the song “Oops Upside Your Head” by the Gap Band… from 1979 (pretty sure the “Up-town funk you up” shout section was taken right from this tune’s suspiciously similar “Oops-up-side your head“). What I’m trying to say is “Uptown Funk” isn’t the most original piece of music to ever hit the airwaves.

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So it was with some hesitation that I initially entertained the video below. A friend of mine had posted it on Facebook with a description that read something like “If you’re a fan of ‘Uptown Funk’ you probably won’t like this. And if you’re not a fan of ‘Uptown Funk’ you’ll probably love this!” Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of the tune but I was still pretty slow to click the ‘play’ button. I noticed, however, that my musician friends seemed to be posting very favorable comments, while some of my non-musician friends seemed to think the original had been defaced. My interest now piqued, I checked out the video and was pretty impressed. I think it is a much, MUCH better version of the original tune. Funkier, more musical, more harmonically diverse, more diverse sections, more textured, more interesting instrumental interplay, better fills… just… better.

And so without further ado, check out this killin’ arrangement of “Uptown Funk” by Tim Akers and his musical collective, The Smoking Section. You’re welcome.