Mark Ronson & The Business Intl: Record Collection

Mark Ronson & The Business Intl: Record Collection

Most pop music is designed to make people feel good. It's dance music, radio-friendly tunes to play at work for motivation and the stuff that's in the background at parties. The fundamental problem with pop is that it's usually obvious when an emotion is being manufactured for the song. Nobody's going to genuinely believe a song is happy just because the singer says so or the producer upped the tempo. There's either a real emotion behind a song or just another cynical cash-in. The most enjoyable part about Record Collection, the latest release by Mark Ronson under his virtual band alias The Business Intl, is that it's clearly based on honest joy. The album is built around an obvious love of music and a respect for those who listen to it. It's pop, undeniably so, but it's legitimate in the emotions it expresses throughout.

Record Collection genre-hops a lot. From the opening moments of the hit single "Bang Bang Bang" it's clear that the album is going to be a workout for the ears. It flits seamlessly between electronic to funk to rap and many, many more styles. Despite all this motion, even within individual tracks, Record Collection is never random or incoherent. If it has anything, it has flow.

On every track that has vocals, Ronson invites along multiple collaborators who all fit their rhythmic, synthy surroundings with little effort. Rappers like Q-Tip and Ghostface Killah weave some A-material rhymes throughout the disc while 80's legends like Simon LeBon of Duran Duran and Boy George lend their tonally appropriate pipes to some of the most moving songs on the album. The title track is especially well-appointed, LeBon trading the mic with rapper/producer Wiley for a sonic experience that's still fun despite its melancholy narrative of a once great, now washed up pop star longing for the validation that comes from having fans.

Rose Elinor Dougall is the strongest female presence on Record Collection. She haunts some of the album's poppier tracks, like the mildly industrial "You Gave Me Nothing" and the island-tinged infatuation tune "Hey Boy". Though it would have been nice to hear one or two more women on Record Collection, Dougall is so confident and expressive that she's one of the most memorable parts of the record.

There are also a few instrumental interludes sprinkled throughout Record Collection. None of them are particularly essential but they also don't just sound like Mark Ronson goofing around with his collection of vintage keyboards. "Colour of Crumar" is a jaunty minute and a half while both "Selector" and "Missing Words" are worthy late-album grooves.

Record Collection is exuberant and moving, a perfectly crafted work of emotionally genuine pop. The collaborative nature of the album is reminiscent of the best of Gorillaz and its tight collection of unique tracks, all of which are keepers, make it one of the year's strongest, most enjoyable offerings.