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On what is actually the fifth(!) album for a musician who has made his name as the go-to producer, songwriter, and collaborator for other stars, Mark Ronson all but continues to play that role on Late Night Feelings, a record defined by a slew of features. Like most Ronson projects, the album includes top-tier talent like Miley Cyrus and Camilla Cabello, but Feelings also spotlights indie icons such as Lykke Li and Angel Olsen, rising star King Princess, and the as-yet-unheralded gospel-pop purveyor YEBBA, who shows up on three separate tracks here. Soon, she will be heralded, her voice is like the whole hymn, no choir needed.
Regardless of the collaborator involved — and despite their stark differences, every vocalist here is a woman — all the songs tell the same story: one of the blues, a broken heart, and an ending that our hero hasn’t quite been able to accept yet. Introduced with the glitzy, galloping Miley runaway hit “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” Late Night Feelings rarely ever rallies to that tempo again, and even if that track comes squarely in the middle of the record, it’s flanked on either side by moody bangers. Which isn’t to say they’re all downtempo, even the throaty, faded vibrato of a singer like Olsen is accompanied by a drum machine and a fat bass line.
As most of us have been in pieces on the floor over a lost love at one point or another, the tracks are deeply relatable, and good at eliciting the same pathos they’re imbued with. And reportedly, all this pain is based on facts: Ronson and his wife of five years, Joséphine de La Baume, were recently divorced. Except, since none of it comes in Ronson’s own voice, it’s a little hard to connect these deep-seated emotions to the man himself. In fact, it’s hard to connect anything, really, to the man himself, except the qualitative excellence of any music he’s even tangentially involved in.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is certainly a different strategy than the highly-personal, life-for-consumption methods that other majorly successful pop stars of our time have begun to employ. Perhaps channeling the pain through others is the closest Ronson can get to embodying a full-fledged pop identity himself. “I’m definitely not a pop star,” Ronson told The New York Times in a profile leading up to the release, which is not something most people feel the need to stipulate, but also is not the mindset of any pop icon worth their salt.