Hit Songs Deconstructed - Powerful Analytical Tools for the Music Industry

MTI – Uptown Funk (Momentum/Tension/Intensity)

The Hit Songs Deconstructed Top 10 Deconstructed Report provides an in-depth look at the compositional characteristics and techniques utilized to craft all of the songs that land within the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 each quarter. This article spotlights some of the key characteristics of a hit song chorus.

For a complimentary copy of the MTI section of
Uptown Funk Deconstructed, click here.

Uptown Funk has been a global sensation for over four months.  To-date, the song has charted within the top 10 on close to 50 charts throughout the world, peaking at #1 on over 30.

Among the core elements that make Uptown Funk so infectious, engaging and memorable are a plethora of hooks and clever elements such as the pitch-shifted vocal double of the bassline as well as the “girls hit your hallelujah” / “WHOO” call and response within the chorus, an assortment of vocal types including solo lead, background group, sung, rapped and spoken, and old-skool comical/boasting natured lyrics such as “I’m too hot / hot damn / make a dragon wanna retire man,” to name just a few of many.

However, it’s the pronounced fluctuations in momentum, tension and intensity levels (MTI) that really helped put the song over the top.  The listener is taken on an exciting ride, with many twists and turns providing for a very dynamic and engaging listening experience


A perfect example of this is the three-part breakdown/build/release flow that embodies the song’s chorus.  Here we’re going to take a look at Uptown Funk’s first chorus:

For starters, this is not a “traditional Pop” chorus as is indicative of many of today’s hits.  Following Mars’s “break it down” declaration at the end of the pre-chorus, the song goes into “breakdown mode,” (Part B-1 “X”) consisting of the “girls hit your Hallelujah” vocal, the backing “whoo” vocal bursts, and a quarter note driven kick drum.  This instantly provides a decrease in intensity relative to the preceding section.

The tension and intensity levels then start to build within the “’cause Uptown Funk gon’ give it to ya” segment (Part B-1 “X” – Build), which is brought about with a shift over to an eighth note kick/snare rhythm, Mars’s higher-pitched vocal, and the addition of a synth swell.  All three elements take the tension and intensity levels to a feverish climax.  Then, instead of slamming right into the next segment which provides tension release, the listener is first “faked out” by a sudden MTI level drop, which is brought about by all of the backing music being pulled out from under the “don’t believe me just watch” vocal (Part B-1 “X” – End).    This abrupt shift functions to both engage and reengage the listener at a heightened level, and provides the segment that follows (Part B-1 “Y”) with increased perceived impact when it hits.

Part B-1 “Y” provides the respite from the tension that had been accumulating, while taking the driving intensity level of the section to a sustained apex.  This is brought about via the repetition of the “don’t believe me just watch” vocal, the “doh, doh, doh” vocal hook, and the addition of synths, drums, brass, bass, backing vocals and intermittent fills into the mix.

The chorus concludes with a rapid-fire brass/drum/bass hit combo (Part B-1 “Z”), which provides brief bursts of intensity, and culminates with Mars’s “James Brown” natured “hey, hey, hey OW” vocal at the end.

Click here to download the full MTI section excerpt from our Uptown Funk Deconstructed Report.



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