In the lead up to the release of Late Night Feelings, Mark Ronson has talked about the recent break-up of his marriage. Ronson is wearing his heartbreak on his sleeve with the first single, ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ and the album’s artwork. Late Night Feelings takes its cues from 2010’s career highlight, ‘Somebody to Love Me’ (featuring Boy George and Andrew Wyatt). It’s the first time since then that Ronson has been as emotionally revealing and that makes this his most poignant and rewarding album.
Ronson found fame working with female performers thanks to his production work on Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and Lily Allen’s Alright Still. When he released his second and most successful album (2007’s Version), it was the Amy Winehouse cover of Valerie that became the album’s biggest hit. To express his heartbreak and bring these sad bangers (as Ronson refers to them) to life, he’s exclusively worked with female vocalists. Late Night Feelings could fill a dancefloor, but every song here has an underlying sense of sorrow.
Miley Cyrus takes the lead on ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’. She gives a raw emotive performance that matches the hopelessness of her words — “this world can hurt you, it cuts you deep and leaves a scar, things fall apart, but nothing breaks like a heart”. The twirling country-tinged guitar and sweeping strings are a natural backing for Cyrus’ voice. Lyrically, it sets the blueprint for the album as well as being a more successful take on her disappointing last album, Younger Now.
The title track has a mesmerising performance by Lykke Li that reinforces her reputation as one of the decade’s most underrated artists. Her sleepy, seductive tone blends with the silky vibes. It’s full of neat songwriting tricks — the double chorus, the unexpected change in tempo, the haunting backing vocals. Throw in the subtle disco strings, deep bass-line and steel drums and this bittersweet sing-a-long is one of the songs of the year. Li also appears on the penultimate track — the soulful torch song, ‘2AM’. The ache in her voice is human and touching as she sings, “I’m not your lover, but we’re making love, and don’t blame it on being drunk, don’t say I’m just a 2AM.”
Camila Cabello pops up on the catchy ‘Find U Again’ , which is sprinkled with glossy synths and neon-lit keyboards. ‘Pieces of Us’ follows and slots in perfectly with the same 80s aesthetics. The slinky Jam & Lewis funk of the bass-line works well with King Princess’ detailing the aftermath of a broken relationship — “all of my love, swing and a miss every time that we talk, and now all I got is pieces of us”. ‘Don’t Leave Me Lonely’ is the kind of song with which Clean Bandit should have filled their album. The swing of the 90s house piano and reggae-lite beat are a perfect match for Yebba’s powerful vocals.
‘True Blue’ is a collaboration with the increasingly wonderful Angel Olsen, and is where the album opens up and takes a slight detour. She channels the hurt and melodrama of Stevie Nicks as she sings, “fucking around, I’m falling in love. saying goodbye. ’cause you’re giving it up”. There’s a dash of Tango In the Night to the galloping rhythm and crystal-clear production. Olsen rises to the challenge and goes out of her comfort zone, resulting in one of the best songs in which both Ronson and Olsen have been involved. This is Ronson’s most personal and honest material, but he’s made unique, empowering women the star of the show. He’s happy to be in the background.
As the album ends with the dreamy lullaby, ‘Spinning’, it eventually turns into a reprise of the title track’s main “on and on and on” hook. As the music melts away, it’s followed by the sound of a heartbeat fading out in the last few seconds. These carefully structured moments make Late Night Feelings Ronson’s most cohesive and strongest album. These feelings sound perfect late at night and they will last way beyond.