NEW YORK — Obsessed with Coldplay’s “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” but wish it were booty-shakeable? That was the predicament facing DJ Mark Ronson, who loved the midtempo Chris Martin tune but knew it would clear a dance floor quicker than you can say “make trade fair.”
But the budding producer — recently acclaimed for his work with Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen — wasn’t keen on simply adding a house beat to an existing Coldplay song.
“As a DJ, sometimes you get bored,” Ronson said. “You make remixes, mash-ups. But I’m a big music nerd, so I was like, ’Let’s just do whole covers from scratch!’ ”
The bopping Coldplay reinterpretation is just one of 11 funkified covers Ronson whipped up for his new album, Versions. Tracks by the Jam, Kasabian and even Britney Spears are also infused with new Ronson flavor.
To handle vocal duties, Ronson enlisted “people [he] was working with at the time.” Therefore, Lily Allen rocks the Kaiser Chiefs’ “Oh My God,” Robbie Williams warbles a Charlatans tune, and in a track originally featured on a 2006 Radiohead tribute CD, Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald does his best Thom Yorke impression on a reggae-inspired “Just.” Ronson even scored an unreleased Ol’ Dirty Bastard rap for a fresh take on Spears’ “Toxic.”
Sure, Ronson grabbed current “it” girl Amy Winehouse for a Motown-ish Zutons cover, but it’s an unknown singer, Daniel Merriweather, whose soulful vocals might steal the spotlight. Ronson and Merriweather’s version of the Smiths’ “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before” — the new track is simply called “Stop Me” — has exploded overseas and is just now getting the single treatment here in the U.S.
“We made that song so different from the original,” Merriweather told MTV News at a recent event at the Hard Rock Cafe. So different, in fact, that while Merriweather is dropping a record of original songs in the States next year, he’s not worried that his first mark on America will be a cover song. “I don’t know if people over here know the Smiths that well. I didn’t really know the Smiths that well myself. [Regardless] I think we made it our own song.”
The U.K. success of Version, which has been in record shops there since April, has Ronson beside himself. “I’m really proud if it,” he said. “It’s sort of surprising to see how well it’s doing because it was just made out of nowhere!”
But any Anglophiles who ran to the import rack for the U.K. version might want to take another trip to the store on July 10 when Ronson’s LP finally lands on U.S. shores.
“There’s gonna be some bonus stuff,” Ronson promised. “Busta Rhymes just got on a remix of ’Oh My God,’ ” he gushed, before doing a pretty spot-on impression of Busta’s signature delivery. “It’s classic Busta Rhymes. I knew I wanted to put it out there.”
With an album’s worth of high-profile covers under his belt, Ronson’s well-suited for his biggest collaboration yet.
“Bob Dylan’s putting out a greatest-hits album and it’s the first time he’s allowed anyone to take any of his original tracks, so I had [frequent backing band] the Dap-Kings play over this old solo Bob Dylan record [’Most Likely You Go Your Way I’ll Go Mine’]. It’s really cool.”
And you thought remixing the Smiths was crazy.