Mark Ronson's 10 Best Collaborations: Critic's Picks
Super producer Mark Ronson’s horn & bass-heavy retro soundscapes have had an undeniable impact on top 40 radio over the past 15 years. From crafting breakthrough records for the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and Adele during the ‘00s British Invasion in pop to making soulful waves in hip-hop, with credits on records for Nas, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Wale, Ronson bridged gaps between genres. His soulful touch and timeless appeal has allowed him to work alongside musical legends like Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Chaka Khan & Quincy Jones and even the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, on the posthumous single “Diamonds Are Invincible,” released earlier this year.
The producer has also dipped his toe into the executive pool with the launch of a record label Zelig Recordings, helping to steer the mainstream breakthrough of his first signee, queer pop phenomenon King Princess, whose debut single “1950” caught the ear of Harry Styles and has netted over 167 million spins on Spotify to date.
After releasing the sweltering dance-pop anthem “Electricity” featuring Dua Lipa and alongside Diplo under the moniker Silk City earlier this year, Ronson kept up the momentum with his latest bop “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” featuring Miley Cyrus. The western-tinged heartbreak anthem (and its viral Bonnie & Clyde-esque visual) serves as the perfect prelude to Ronson’s forthcoming fifth full-length LP, which he has described as a breakup record following his 2017 split from his ex-wife, French actress Joséphine de La Baume.
To celebrate Ronson’s heartbreak era, Billboard dives into his lengthy discography to choose 10 of his best prior collaborations to date.
“Ooh Wee” - Mark Ronson ft. Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg, Trife, Saigon (2003)
Serving as the lead single from Ronson’s own debut LP Here Comes The Fuzz, the funky gem includes samples of Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio” and Boney M’s “Sunny,” the latter which the producer first heard after viewing the 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson flick Boogie Nights. The breakthrough hit — which included verses from Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg, Trife, and Saigon — landed Ronson on the map, and even secured synchs in early-aughts classics Honey and Hitch.
“Back To Black” - Amy Winehouse (2006)
First partnering on Winehouse’s jazz-tinged debut album Frank, the pair reunited for her sophomore effort (and subsequent global breakthrough) Back To Black. While it was the album’s tongue-in-cheek hit single “Rehab” that made Winehouse a household name the world over, it was the album’s title track “Back To Black” that endured as a beacon of the late artist’s songwriting prowess and divine grasp of heartache in all its tortured misery. The troubled star took home a whopping five Grammy Award wins for best new artist, record of the year, song of the year and female pop vocal performance for “Rehab,” and pop vocal album for Back To Black. The pair reunited on Ronson’s sophomore LP Version for a now-classic cover of The Zutons’ “Valerie,” followed by a re-work of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” on Winehouse’s 2011 posthumous LP Lioness: Hidden Treasures.
“Littlest Things” - Lily Allen (2006)
Ronson partnered with fellow U.K. talent Allen on her debut LP Alright, Still after hearing an early demo of her song “Smile.” “Littlest Things” was the first song the pair co-wrote together for the album, and was inspired by Allen’s recent breakup with then boyfriend Seb, who incidentally introduced Allen to Ronson. A then-unknown singer-songwriter Santi White (a.k.a. Santigold) also has a writing credit on the introspective piano-driven cut, which samples Pierre Bachelet and Hervé Roy’s music from the soft-core porno-art film Emmanuelle.
“Cold Shoulder” - Adele (2008)
The only track produced by Ronson on the superstar’s debut LP 19, “Cold Shoulder” is glittering electro-R&B anthem that showcases the then-burgeoning artist’s grit & swagger as she spits lines of intimate betrayal like “so where you been then? don’t go all coy, don’t turn around on my like it’s my fault” and “you shower me with words made of knives, whenever you look at me and wish I was her.” The singer performed the track during her majorly influential Saturday Night Live debut, which helped catapult her to global superstardom, in part, because it was the program’s highest rated show in 14 years (thanks to special guest Sarah Palin also making an appearance).
“Fried Chicken” - Nas, Busta Rhymes (2008)
Ronson’s glowing, neo soul production gives added bite to this clever ode to fried chicken that serves as the most lighthearted cut on Nas’ heavily political Untitled LP, anchored on such killer lines as “give me heart disease, but need you in my kitchen” and “don't know a part of you that I love best, your legs or your breast.” But the track does include a nod to the dish’s socio-historical implications: “created by southern black women, to serve massa' guest.”
“Mirrors” - Wale ft. Bun B (2009)
Ronson serves as a co-writer on “Mirrors,” alongside both Wale, Bun and music producer Ticklah — aka Victor Axelrod of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, and the Easy Star All-Stars. The track, which features on Wale’s debut LP Attention Deficit, sonically fits with Ronson’s one-two punch of blooming horns and gritty bass, and even includes Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald on backing vocals. Greenwald previously appeared on Ronson’s Version LP on an expert cover of Radiohead’s “Just.”
“Alligator” - Paul McCartney (2013)
After serving as wedding DJ for the Beatle's nuptials to Nancy Shevell in 2011, Ronson and McCartney linked up in the studio to helm three tracks for his 2013 LP NEW: the album’s title track, “Secret Life of a Party Girl” and “Alligator.” The latter is a whimsical, driving pop-rock gem, anchored on a repeated synthesized flute line, scorching guitar licks, and a vulnerable bridge that finds McCartney asking “could you be that person for me?”
“Baby Blue” - Action Bronson ft. Chance the Rapper (2015)
The fourth and final single from Bronson’s sophomore LP Mr. Wonderful earned the Queens emcee and F—k That’s Delicious host his first solo appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, debuting and peaking at No. 91, with over 77 million spins on Spotify to date. The track, which includes a surprise co-write from Zane Lowe, finds Bronson and Chance spitting about the pitfalls of recent flames over sparse piano-heavy production, with the repeated hook offering a comedown from anger to grief: “When I’m with you, baby girl I’m blue.”
“Uptown Funk” - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (2015)
After first collaborating on 2012’s smash “Locked Out Of Heaven,” Ronson once again teamed up with Mars on the now-mammoth hit “Uptown Funk,” which has since made history tying for the second-longest leading Billboard Hot 100 hit ever (at 14 weeks), sitting alongside ubiquitous classics like Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997,” Los Del Rio’s “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” The anthem took home the Grammy Award for record of the year in 2016, ensuring that we’ll all be singing along to that “Michelle Pfeiffer that white gold” for decades to come.
“Million Reasons” - Lady Gaga (2016)
Ronson partnered with the pop superstar on her bold, country-tinged 2016 LP Joanne. While some of the album’s tracks (looking at you “Grigio Girls”) did not receive as much unanimously positive takes from critics and fans alike, it was the folksy ballad “Million Reasons,” co-written by Ronson and Nashville songwriting titan Hillary Lindsey, that earned the star a top 5 Hot 100 hit following its performance as part of her Super Bowl Half Time show, which included an endearing shout-out to her parents: “Hi mom, hi dad!” The pair reunited for the lead single “Shallow” from Gaga’s debut starring role in 2018’s A Star Is Born, which boasts Gaga’s unforgettable soaring voice: “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground, crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us, we’re far from the shallow now.”