How To Be: Mark Ronson

Documentary Probes Influence in Music


Karma Westbard

“How To Be: Mark Ronson “is a new Youtube Originals documentary.

Luca Johnson, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Falcon Rating: 4/5 

How To Be: Mark Ronson is the newest release from Youtube Originals. It is a documentary about the prolific music producer, Mark Ronson. When I saw this documentary in my YouTube recommendations, I could not contain my delight. I have been a longtime fan of Ronson ever since I heard the album Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. The album was produced by Ronson with a playful mixture of 60s soul, motown, and 90s hip hop. Since then, Ronson has released the 2013 smash hit, “Uptown Funk,” with Bruno Mars. The song nearly broke the record for the longest running number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. Ronson’s influence on the retro vibe often seen in modern music is unquestionable, and yet many people don’t know much about him, which is what makes the documentary so necessary. 

The film starts off with Ronson’s parents and siblings recalling observations about what he was like as a child of British origin growing up in New York City (which seemed relatively uneventful), and moves chronologically from there. The documentary gets more interesting as the subject moves to Ronson’s work as a DJ and MC for various New York City clubs as a teenager, where he met and collaborated with many rappers and musicians, including rapper Q-Tip. The film then goes through each of his musical projects and shows the process that went along with their respective creations.

As a longtime fan of Mark Ronson, I loved this documentary. Although some could argue that Ronson’s music speaks for itself, I found it interesting to see the origins and background of the music that he now produces, both on a large scale and in respect to each individual project. It would have been interesting to learn more about Ronson’s creative process, but the film instead focused on the influences behind each work and Ronson’s personal interpretation of his pieces. 

His influence on the retro vibe often seen in modern music is unquestionable.”

The primary purpose of the documentary seemed to be to make Mark Ronson look cool, and although the creators made a convincing case, the endless stream of praise felt redundant as the film progressed. Many spoke about how amazing it was to work with, be friends with, or even live with Ronson. The excess of examples of Ronson’s “coolness” undermined the possibility for a more intimate and vulnerable look into what lies behind his reputation. Many of the more introspective moments from Ronson, like when he talks about his recent divorce, feel forced and insincere.

Still, the film does give the audience an idea of Ronson’s personality and humor. Ronson comes off as a humble, casual genius as he discusses various aspects of his career with a distinctive drawl. The movie is a fun watch for both hardcore fans and others who are interested in music in general. It marks an important raising of quality for YouTube Originals, which have traditionally felt like off-brand, low- budget movies and TV shows.

This piece also appears in our November 2019 print edition.