Uptown Funk: The Secrets to Its Virality

Article by: Anu Babuji

Video by: Ben Carden, Joshua Emmanuel Tan, and Jeanne Dee

Uptown Funk has just recently become the new craze. Having served as the soundtrack for the IASAS Tennis Send Off and having been the song performed by Argent– the winning band at the Battle of the Bands– Uptown Funk is certainly another one-of-a-kind catchy song that manages to get everyone moving and singing regardless of personal music tastes!

Wherever and whenever heard, the song surely has a hypnotic quality that gets one’s head bobbing and body grooving to its catchy beats and trumpet tunes. But what owes to its success? What is the “secret ingredient” in the successful recipe of catchy sensations like Uptown Funk?

According to Senior and lead singer of Argent Robbi Sy, “Unlike other pop songs today, in which the beat is on average 120 beats per minute, [Uptown Funk] is slightly slower, averaging about 115 beats per minute.” He continues with his technical explanation saying, “This slowness is exactly what gives this song that ‘umph’ because it is not a song to jump to…it’s a song to groove to.” Sami Um, a Junior co-captain of the Varsity Girls Tennis Team, says “I think it’s Bruno Mars’ “swag’ in the lyrics and tune that really brings the song to life!” Sophomore Selina De Dios adds, “It’s just one of those songs that puts you in a good mood. It has a catchy tune [and] simple lyrics. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, and it also helps that Bruno Mars sung it.”

Evidently, there is much more to Uptown Funk than just the fact that Bruno Mars sung it. It is comprised of a simplistic, groovy, memorable and simultaneously catchy tune. But what does Uptown Funk have in common with other global phenomena like Psy’s Gangnam Style, a Korean song that currently ranks as the most watched Youtube video and the largest hit of 2013?

According to Robbi, although he thinks “Gangnam Style was quite a stupid song,” he believes that “what brings them together is the choreo integrated in the song.” When asked the same question, Sami’s response was that “the chorus for both songs is really simple and catchy, [allowing] people to easily be familiar with it and sing along!”. She also adds that “both songs have pretty sweet music videos.” Selina shares Robbi’s sentiment in saying, “As much as people dislike Gangnam style, the dance has become so iconic that you can’t help but do it.” However, she also believes that “[the] only thing I see in common between these two songs is the fact that both of them will make you dance.”

Thus we see that both Gangnam Style and Uptown Funk owe their success to “catchiness.” However, the term “catchiness” is extremely subjective. What does a song need to have in order to classified as “catchy”?

According to Robbi, who references Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” to explain, “catchy is something that just makes you want to move your feet, or bob your head, now matter how ‘annoying’ or ‘bad’ you might perceive it to be.” Similarly, Sami believes that “something is catchy [if] it is appealing for some inexplicable reason and it is easily remembered.” Selina defines music as being catchy when “you can’t get it out of your head or if you can’t help but sing along when you hear it play.”

As evident in the responses from three different people, it seems that we are in fact able to identify, although not clearly, those ingredients, including danceable beats and great choreography, which render an average song a global sensation. To all those aspiring musicians and songwriters—take note if you plan on writing the next sensation.