The Canadian rock band Magic! is sitting at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with their summer hit “Rude,” which along with Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” is a contender for song of the summer, though you probably don’t know as much about Magic! as you do Azalea or Smith.
The reggae-influenced band released their debut album, Don’t Kill the Magic, at the end of last year. Their hit single “Rude” refers to the rudeness of a father who won’t allow his daughter to marry the song’s narrator. The song is an odd hit given the old-fashioned romanticism of the lyrics and the fact that reggae isn’t typically a very popular genre. According to Billboard, there have been only 10 other reggae songs to reach the number one spot on the Hot 100 in the chart’s 56-year history. It’s also the first time in 12 years that a Canadian band — all of the Magic! members are from the Toronto area — has reached number one. Nickelback was the last Canadian band to top the charts back in 2001.
Pop songwriter and record producer Nasri Atweh is the lead vocalist of Magic! and has had top ten hits before as a songwriter. Two of those songs were from pop star Justin Bieber, also a native of Canada, as well as Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment.”
The band says that their goal was to create a group that sounded like a mix between the Wailers and the Police. Atweh and guitarist Mark Pellizzer are the group’s main songwriters. “When I met Mark and he started playing that reggae groove, I was like, ‘This feels good,’” Atweh told Billboard. “I started to be happy around him. When he would play, I started to feel like an artist, like I had value, like I was being heard. He makes me feel that way when we write. And he’s competitive, so we push each other.”
Despite the hit song, critics have not been so impressed with the band’s music. The New York Times had this to say of the group’s debut album: “Don’t Kill the Magic is pleasant enough, a beige album full of music almost wholly lacking in ambition. It hits worldly notes without all the mess of actually having traveled. Its lite-reggae-rock is unerringly smooth, and unerring in general, with songs so casual and familiar they barely need to be written at all.” An L.A. Times review of a gig Magic! played at the El Rey Theater earlier this summer was similarly skeptical.
Atweh has the cocky showmanship of a rock and roll frontman down pat, but perhaps needs to do a bit more work on the talent needed to warrant such a large ego. The L.A. Times noted that Atweh “eagerly offered every trick in the rock-star handbook” during the band’s performance. In the Billboard interview, Atweh said: “If Magic sticks around — which we will — you’ll hear more about my life. In my autobiography.”
Despite Atweh’s confidence, while “Rude” is performing well in several international markets as well as the U.S. and the band’s native Canada, Magic! hasn’t yet done anything to convince anyone that they’re capable of being anything more than a one-hit wonder.
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