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What Lean On's Spotify record-break tells me about dancehall

So, it was announced that Major Lazer 'Lean On' broke the record for most played song in Spotify's history. Small feat in that it's only one platform, but massive feat in that its still the most played song ever on a huge platform.

But what does this mean? Well, what I get from it is confirmation of something I've always known. A dancehall song can rule the world.


I'm by no means calling this a pure dancehall song, but the sound of it is strongly based on dancehall. That much is undeniable. And it actually started life as a reggae song.

The song has the same chord structure as most current dancehall songs (except it has an intriguing progression). However, the sound of the synths/chords are closer to what happens in that emo-electric world - be it alt-r&b, emo-dance music whatever, it's all that emo shit. There are elements of trap when the trumpet plays in the post-chorus, but the song climaxes in the chorus with the old skool Taxi Gang drums like 'Murder She Wrote'. That groove is timeless and flows with the dancing.



Lyrically, its a universal song. Like most of the great crossover dancehall and reggae songs in history. I can't find the right words to describe it but it's a dreamy one. Carries the message of unity, love and friendship - something very Rasta and hippy about it which kinda adds up now I know it was a reggae song.

Earlier this year I said "Don't Go Chasing Cheerleader", Omi did and, well, it hasn't taken flight (yet). I wanted a reggae song with Shaggy or Sean Paul or maybe a dancehall song with Popcaan. They went for soca vibe without a soca collaboration which was a no-brainer to me. Last year Tessanne Chin released a bunch of "I'm not making a reggae song unless it has dub step wobbles" the same week Canadian reggae band Magic! hit number 1 in both US and UK after dominating the Oceanic region as well as most places in Europe. About a week after Chronixx appeared on Jimmy Fallon.

I'd love for Jamaicans to understand dancehall (and reggae) sounds close pop music in many different regions. South America, Africa and many parts of Asia and mainland Europe are receptive to that sound of dancehall. The song even reached number 1 in Australia and won in them zones. I just wish Jamaicans understood the reach of their music when it sounds like their music.

The Latin community is the base that really broke Sean Paul in America. They love our music as evidenced by their own pop music, reggaeton. I've been shouting Latin-friendly dancehall is the way forward for like two years strong. If a song wants to break America that is. Sean Paul assisted Farruko last year and sold a million, Enrique Iglesias' Spanglish remix to smash Bailando, Shaggy jumped on one with Farruko and Nicky Jam this year (both produced by Rvssian) and scored a ht of his own with a Latin-friendly one. Dem bow still runs Spanish-speaking places.



I hope everyone making Jamaican music realises the music doesn't have to sound like shiny American black pop music to crossover. Pop side of hip hop sounds closer to bashment than it has in a long time. The music doesn't have to be accepted in America before it can crossover. The music has to have that groove we all know and love before it can even think of crossing over. Don't be afraid to make the music adapt to the times, try not to let the times dictate the music.

In my mind, pop isn't a base sound of music, it's a process and a marketplace. Take a root genre (hip hop, reggae, rock, r&b etc.), put it in a pop way (structure, mix, appeal and such) then try to sell it to a mass market. That's pop to me. Reggae and dancehall are sounds/root genre. Lyrically, it can be anything (within reason). I see singles as statements, albums as conversations and genres as languages. Translate but you don't have to lose your mother tongue.

And this isn't a post about me wanting dancehall to crossover to pop as much as this post may suggest. It's more about wanting more universal dancehall songs. The core are sorted, give us some vibes for the casual fans. Dance floor-friendly riddims and sing alongs. Those two elements have been lacking in the past few of years. Bun the compromising. There's a lot of hip hop lyrical stuff and, while singjay's run the place, sing along melodies and hooks are at an all-time low ironically. The riddim's definitely haven't been as universally dance floor friendly. Too many lightweight riddims yearning for urban American pop radio play. I don't wanna hear that.

We love to dance and sing. Dancehall at its best has always provided that. Big up Sean Paul 'cos Dutty Rock dropped thirteen years ago on Wednesday.

I'm holding a lot back from this for the end of year World of Dancehall 2015 post. That'll drop next month. For now you can bounce to this one by Justin Bieber which just overtook Adele's Hello as number one on UK Spotify. Or, I recommend you bounce to Protoje "Who Knows" which moves up to B-list on Radio 1 playlist. First song since Damian Marley "Welcome To Jamrock" ten years ago. Dance floor-friendly and sing along reggae music.

Actually, bounce to Charly Black's surprise hit 'Gyal You A Party Animal'. Shelling down central and South America plus places in Europe like Israel and Turkey. You hear how the vibes are similar? This is what the dance floors are crying for alongside the current stuff that satisfies the hardcore dancehall lovers.

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