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That’s right, Canadian: The four guys in Magic, the first band of Canucks to top the Hot 100 since Nickelback more than a decade ago, hail from the Toronto area, just like Darrin “Snow” O’Brien.
So why are all these Great White North folks jammin’?
So the short answer to why the not-so-rude boys of Magic are on top now is that, four and a half years into the ’10s, we were probably due.
The last time a reggae-like song topped the Hot 100 was in 2007, when Sean Kingston took his Ben E.
There are a couple of gems on that roster, but given Jamaica’s rich 50-plus-year history of ska, rocksteady, and reggae, we could, and should, have done better. Maxi Priest is a legitimate reggae lifer, and 1990’s “Close to You” is a groovy pop song, but despite its island vibe, it’s all rhythm, no riddim—closer to turn-of-the-’90s new jack swing and pop-house.
And while Eric Clapton deserves a few taste points for covering Bob Marley back in ’74, in its studio version his “I Shot the Sheriff” so completely smooths out Marley’s rhythm that it’s barely reggae at all. “I Can See Clearly Now,” America’s first reggae-based No. But Johnny Nash was more reggae emissary than forefather: Born in Houston, he was an easy-listening balladeer for more than a decade and only began recording in Jamaica in 1968, when he had the great fortune to meet the early Wailers (a fraction of Bob Marley’s band wound up backing Nash on “Clearly”).
(Ironically, Clapton’s later hit cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” sports a much more obvious reggae beat.) And if Even the seemingly more authentic tracks on that list are in some way watered down or sanitized for U. Closer to the present day, Jamaica-born, Brooklyn-reared Shaggy was several albums into his career before making it really big in America in 2001. K., Shaggy had been to the top of the charts as far back as 1993 with a shrewd and faithful cover of a Jamaican classic, the Folkes’ Brothers’ “Oh Carolina.” Over here, he didn’t get to No.
1 until “It Wasn't Me” and “Angel”—a sex-laced meme-song and a reggaefied version of an oft-covered ’60s torch ballad, respectively. just crushes us when it comes to Jamaica-based music. (We’re not totally clueless in America—that song did scrape our Top 10.) Other delightful British No.
What about the Jamaican acts we do worship, like Bob Marley?
We gave him no Top 40 hits, and have mostly contented ourselves with his posthumous greatest-hits album.
(The narrator's lightweight sufferings are about two degrees and a female backing chorus away from this 20-year-old Adam Sandler song.) Still, by the most basic definitions of rhythm and genre, “Rude” is reggae.
Indeed, it’s the first reggae-based song to reach No. And by the way, we are the only country that’s made “Rude” a No. Answering that question means exploring America’s strange, dysfunctional relationship with reggae as a whole.
There are also great beaches and a therapeutic mineral spa!