Mark Ronson: Why we should listen to albums in full
Mark Ronson isn’t going to turn up at your front door and demand you listen to his latest album.
As interesting a surprise confrontation as that might be, it’s not his style. Plus, he has a lot of fans. It could take a while.
But, as a singer-songwriter, DJ, record producer, hit-maker and self-proclaimed perfectionist who has worked with everyone from Adele and Amy Winehouse to Queens Of The Stone Age, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney – and won a shelf-full of awards including Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Oscar, too – the making of a record is not a task he takes lightly.
Which is why he is one of the “artist champions”, alongside Lewis Capaldi, Elbow and Mahalia, for National Album Day this year.
While streaming and social media have changed the way we consume music, giving us the means to continuously flit between different artists and tracks, the idea is to celebrate taking the time to listen to an album in full, as a complete body of work that tells a story.
Ronson tells Sky News he is “definitely not against change” and is happy to have fans who know him purely for his biggest hits – and he has masterminded a lot of those: Uptown Funk, Nothing Breaks Like A Heart, Valerie, Shallow, to name just a few.
But fans listening to and enjoying the lesser-known tracks too brings “a lovely feeling” when you have put a lot of effort into your work.
“I’m definitely not against change,” he says. “If there are people who love Nothing Breaks Like A Heart or Late Night Feelings I’m not going to show up to their house and be like, you have to listen to Why Hide [another track from his latest album, Late Night Feelings] as well, but if someone does like Nothing Breaks Like A Heart enough to go and buy the album, that’s great.
“I want to make sure that if that process of discovery does happen then it’s as good as it can be, it’s not like 12 sh*t songs and there’s just one they like.
“It’s nice when people come up to you and say they like the dark horse songs that aren’t the obvious ones. That’s a lovely feeling.”
As someone who collected records from a young age, music has been the “biggest mainstay” in Ronson’s life.
“I still have all my albums… Even though I don’t DJ with all of them anymore, they all have a place in my life. I can look at a record and remember where I bought it, the stories.”
Ronson says listening to an album in full is “very different to listening to songs on a playlist”.
“When I started to make music, I thought in terms of the album having a beginning, a middle and an end,” he says. “There’s something about the concept of the album that’s really important to me, it’s something I think about a lot when I’m making music.
“Thinking about albums I bought, one of my [favourite] records, Mecca And The Soul Brother [Pete Rock and CL Smooth), I bought that because my favourite song, They Reminisce Over You, was on there but then you get that relationship with the other songs that you might never have known.
“In my apartment I have a turntable and when I’m home there’s something really nice about just putting a record on and not thinking about picking the next song after three-and-a-half minutes. It’s freeing. Yes, you don’t [necessarily] love every song but there’s something in listening to it in the way that it was meant to be listened to.
“You listen the way that person you love thought it was the best way to put it together.”
:: Mark Ronson’s top 10 albums – a difficult task “for anyone who loves music”, he says.
1 Pete Rock and CL Smooth – Mecca and the Soul Brother
2 Gang Starr – Daily Operation
3 Steely Dan – Aja
4 Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key of Life
5 A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
6 The Brand New Heavies – The Brand New Heavies
7 Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
8 The Meters – Look-Kay Py Py
9 Hall & Oates – Big Bam Boom
10 Average White Band – AWB
:: National Album Day takes place on Saturday 12 October