On paper, rollicking alt-rockers Queens of the Stone Age and superproducer Mark Ronson seem like strange bedfellows. It might have been weirder to see them mentioned in the same sentence ten years ago, when the former still retained more of the stoner metal DNA from frontman Josh Homme’s old band, Kyuss, and the latter was still primarily gifting beats to British pop stars and blog-darling rappers, but even in 2017, it’ll induce a double-take or two. After all, Homme’s most visible recent venture was producing an Iggy Pop album and Ronson’s was “Uptown Funk!”
Funnily enough, when Zane Lowe asked Homme why he tapped Ronson as the producer of QOTSA’s new album Villains, praise for the chart-topping Bruno Mars hit was the first thing to come out of his mouth:
“Listening to ‘Uptown Funk!’ it’s very tight and vacuous and it sounds great. I knew I wanted to make something very tight with the air sucked out of it and very clear, you know.”
No words could better describe the first taste we’ve gotten of Queens of the Ronstone Age, new single “The Way You Used to Do.” It shimmies like no previous QOTSA song, taking the brawny, hairy barrel chest that is their sound and squeezing it into a skin-tight patent leather jacket. The band already did sleazy better than any other modern rockers-- check “Make It Wit Chu” or “Little Sister” if you need a refresher-- but Ronson adds gloss and glam that seem like the logical endpoint of a band that began its career with a song about a dude who frequently solicits prostitutes. This John got rich, and can no longer be called “regular,” but he’s still horny as hell.
“The Way You Used to Do” is, by-and-large, the product of two artists who started off in wildly different niche-corners of music, desert rock and Motown-influenced alt-rap, respectively, but have inched closer towards the mainstream ever since. Their rises dovetailed so closely with poptimism that, lest we forget, both were collaborators on Lady Gaga’s 2016 album. It’d be a stretch to say that Homme and Ronson have been tiptoeing around each other all these years, but now that they’ve forged at least an album-length partnership, it feels like the universe is tying up a narrative that began in the early 2000s.