You gotta hand it to Mark Ronson: Hes that rare music industry It kid whos in touch with how annoying hes become. It had sort of become a punch line, says the DJ-producer of his last album, 2007s Version, a trendy set of British and American pop remakes that saw acts like Amy Winehouse and Robbie Williams taking on the Zutons, the Smiths, and Radiohead. I think I did them a bit to death. I had only one mission statement for the new album: No more covers.
Record Collection, Ronsons album with the Business Intl and his first of all original songs, preserves his fondness for pop, hip-hop, and Motown, but its tracks come coated with a shimmery layer of 80s synths. Ronson being Ronson -- producer of two of the biggest Brit-pop records of the past decade (Lily Allens Alright, Still and Winehouses Back to Black) -- its no surprise that celebrity assistants abound. When it was time to go into the studio, I thought, Ill just get four or five of my favorite musicians in the world and keyboards that I love and just go from there, he says.
Those musicians range from Q-Tip and DAngelo to Boy George, Scissor Sisters Jake Shears, and even the London Gay Mens Chorus. Georges plaintive Somebody to Love Me is a highlight. While we were writing it, we kept coming back to Culture Clubs Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?, a soulful song about the loss of love, says Ronson, who pursued George for months, experiencing some pangs of rejection himself. He came into the studio, and I was a bit overconfident, he says. I thought hed say, Great! Put up a mike and lets sing it now! But he just sat there and was like, OK, its not something Id usually do, so let me sit with it for a week. I thought Id never hear from him again. Luckily, he came around. When George went in the booth and started to sing, his voice was so different from what I remembered. It just brought so much emotional weight to the song.
A referral from one of Ronsons friends, the London Gay Mens Chorus open Record Collection, out September 28. Its very Judgment Day, Ronson says of their brooding contribution to Introducing the Business. The records title track, sung by Duran Durans Simon Le Bon, mocks Ronsons hyperconnected, cooler-than-thou persona. I like that its making light of things that could be interpreted as my life, he says. Im always surprised when I meet people and talk to them for a while, then they say, Oh, thats so strange: Youre not a dick. Its good to show youre the first person to laugh at yourself.
This humility cant hurt Ronsons sensitive-pinup status with his fans. His popular boyfriend-able looks provoked one commenter on the celeb gossip site Jezebel to write, I want him to produce my orgasms. His response? Im aware of it, but there are probably 5,000 guys who are better looking than me in a one-mile radius of where I am in London. Im not at Timberlake levels of gawkerdom. (On that subject, he seems unfazed by the tabloid drama surrounding his DJ sister, Samantha, and Lindsay Lohan, which is finally abating: The good thing is that I dont spend much time in L.A., he says, so I dont really have to deal with that.)
But Ronson continues to reflect on lessons learned from online detractors: Apparently, Im not a very good smiler, he says. Whenever I try to smile in a picture, people always say I look smug, which is one of the worst words. Smug means youre very pleased with yourself, one of the last things Id think of when describing myself. Im proud of the work Ive done, but I usually think its going to end tomorrow.
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