Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants, mon.
Sometimes, a logical choice make its way to number one, but other times there seems to be a bit of MAGIC! involved. At least, I assume there has to be; people had at least heard of Pharrell and Iggy Azalea before they were suddenly everywhere. The same cannot be said for MAGIC!, a Canadian reggae fusion band who just took first place in Genres to Run Away From In a Hurry. So, who are these guys?
Like Foster the People and Bastille, [shift]magic1[/shift] is essentially a group formed to prop up one songwriter, in this case, it’s lead singer Nasri
Atweh. But, unlike jingle-writer Mark Foster and the aspirations of Bastille’s Dan Smith, Nasri’s actually gotten a career off the ground as half of The Messengers, landing high profile writing and producing gigs. The Messengers aren’t going to be rubbing elbows with superproducers like Max Martin or Benny Blanco, but they’ve had a steady career doing music that you’ve heard of. Unfortunately it might not qualify as music that you want to hear. In fact, The Messngers have worked on…
Nasri’s resume reads like an indictment, tying him to some of the tackiest and blandest electropop/R&B of the last five years or so. And The Messengers weren’t regulated to cranking out Pitbull or Bieber’s filler tracks; they were directly responsible for singles you probably hated. On one hand, it’s not a track record to be proud of, but on the other, it shows that the guy knows his way around a hit. But with MAGIC! at the Disco, Nasri wanted to do something different and more artistic.
Let’s get the niceties out of the way first: with that kind of pedigree, “Rude” could be a lot worse. As a songwriter and a performer, Nasri lacks Brown’s meanspiritedness or Bieber’s narcissism, which means that “Rude” registers more as annoyingly terrible than, say, reprehensible or hateful. That said, Nasri painfully lacks either of those two’s charisma, and the song’s bright nature leaves him with absolutely nowhere to hide. And three minutes and forty five seconds sounds like an eternity when the guy in front has nothing to offer.
More than anything else, that nega-quality of “Rude” is what pisses me off. The song is so incompetent that it manages to be jarringly distinct and completely forgetful at the same horrible time. I couldn’t tell you the first time I heard “Problem”, or “Fancy”, or “Happy”, but I remember the first time I heard “Rude” with the unforgettable dread normally associated with hearing Michael Bay’s on a new project. I was in the car with a friend of mine, and we both had the same “the fuck is this?” moment during a lull in conversation after realizing that the music for some ad had gone on for three minutes.
Let’s look at the music of “Rude”. Nasri formed Widespread MAGIC! when he and Mark Pellizzer jammed together, envisioning the project as “modern-day Police”. Which I suppose I could see if you took The Police, removed Andy Summers’ guitar chops, somehow made Sting doofier, ditched the band’s pop instincts and edge, and threw in the “steel drum” default setting on a children’s keyboard. No, “Rude” doesn’t even strike me as Police facsimile; it’s too colorless for that.
What it actually reminds me of is “Tonight, Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae. Remember them (if you do, I’m so sorry)? Like “Tonight, Tonight”, “Rude” has this processed, off-brand pop music quality to it that makes it sound like a Disney show theme song or commercial jingle instead of a radio hit. Like, if you mute the sound and listen to “Rude” over this commercial, it sounds more natural than the song does next to “Stay With Me” or “Maps”.
For such a polystyrene song, “Rude” has baffling subject matter: a young man asks a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and he says no. The young man asks twice again, and gets “Still no” and “Did I fucking stutter?” as a response. That’s it.
I mean, yeah, songs have been written about dumber subjects, but “Rude” sets up a story and then doesn’t go anywhere with it–empty promise of “I’m gonna marry that girl” notwithstanding. The song’s halfassed nature makes a little more sense when you learn that “Rude” was originally about a fight before it got reworked because the band couldn’t get the original idea to work, and Nasri didn’t want to let go of “Why ya gotta be so rude? Don’t you know I’m human, too?”
Far be it from me to argue with the guy behind “Never Say Never”, but it’s possible the original concept didn’t work, not because you couldn’t find the right angle, but because your central line is just stupid. When I think of “rude”, I think of someone cutting someone off, not leaving a door open, or being short with somebody; not offense that call for “Don’t you know I’m human, too”. It’s just a whiny and ineffective retort. Hell, it doesn’t even work in context; shouldn’t the guy’s response be “Why the hell not?” And is the dad being rude when he says “I’m sorry my friend, but the answer is no”?
I haven’t met anyone that openly likes this song. Hell, I haven’t even heard it anywhere beside the radio. It’s dull reggae pastiche at best and incompetently nonsensical at worst; there isn’t even a tangible “it’s catchy” defense for this one. At the very least, mAgIc! radiates One Hit Wonder, so I’m fairly confident they’ll be gone sooner rather than later, but I hope we don’t end up with another “Happy” on our hands. I hate it when songs overstay their welcome. Seems kinda rude.