‘Rude’ lifts Magic! to new heights

Aug. 1, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Magic! frontman Nasri Atweh, second from left, says the reggae element currently in their music is a reflection of what they like and that it could change. (Courtesy Chapman Baehler)

Magic! frontman Nasri Atweh, second from left, says the reggae element currently in their music is a reflection of what they like and that it could change. (Courtesy Chapman Baehler)

BY STEFANIE NAKASONE / snakasone@staradvertiser.com

Admit it — when you first heard “Rude,” you thought it was the latest tune from another local island reggae band.

Don’t worry, you weren’t alone.

“A lot of our friends thought it was a local artist,” said concert promoter Remy Kawakami. She would then inform them that the band behind the smash hit of the summer is actually from Toronto (though it is now based in Los Angeles).

MAGIC!

With Kat Dahlia

» Where: Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii
» When: 3 p.m. Sunday (park opens at 10 a.m.)
» Cost: $45 pre-sale, $50 at the door
» Info: (855) 235-2867, flavorus.com

A Canadian reggae band? Sure, why not?

As Magic! frontman Nasri Atweh pointed out, “Reggae music is really popular all around the world because of artists like Bob Marley. Other artists have modernized it over time, like No Doubt and The Police. Everybody kind of likes it.”

Magic! will make its Hawaii debut Sunday at Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii, a concert presented by Kawakami’s Wonderland Entertainment Group. Also performing will be singer-songwriter and rapper Kat Dahlia as well as Wonderland resident DJs.

“Rude” has become that rare reggae song that’s been able to cross over into the mainstream, racing up the charts and last month dethroning Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” from the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Both here and on the mainland, the song is in regular rotation on stations that don’t normally play reggae.

Local pop/hip-hop station 102.7 Da Bomb (KDDB-FM) picked up on the song after sister station 93.1 Da Paina (KQMQ-FM) and other local reggae stations began to play it.

“We looked at it, we began getting requests for it, we saw the sales and saw how good it was doing. … We just thought, you know, why not?” said 102.7 programming director Kelsey Yogi, aka K-Smooth, pointing out his station often plays other nonpop/hip-hop hits, like Lorde’s “Royals.”

Part of the song’s appeal is simply good songwriting, K-Smooth said. That’s not surprising considering Atweh, together with multi-instrumentalist and arranger Adam Messinger, has written and produced music for some of the most popular singers around, including Justin Beiber, Chris Brown and Shakira. Atweh and Messinger, known as The Messengers, were among several producers on Brown’s 2012 “F.A.M.E.,” which won the Grammy for best R&B album.

“Rude” is about a man who asks his girlfriend’s father for permission to marry her and is rejected. But the man resolves to “marry her anyway.”

“The inspiration was just this funny idea,” Atweh said. “I came up with this weird story, and no one’s ever sang a song to a dad before.

“Well, actually, I guess Madonna has. But ours is a little lighter.”

“Rude” is the first single off Magic!’s debut album, “Don’t Kill the Magic,” which was released June 30 and debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. While the record includes other reggae-heavy tracks like “Rude,” there are others that go deep into other genres, from the acoustic “One Woman One Man” to the postpunk “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” and pop-rock title track “Don’t Kill the Magic.”

Atweh, who described the album as “pop-reggae-rock-soul,” said Magic! is focused not so much on a particular genre, but just playing what he and his band mates like.

“Right now the reggae element in our music, it fits us and we like it,” he said. “We’ll keep doing it until we like something else.”

Kat Dhalia: Miami pop/hip-hop artist opens for Magic! (Courtesy Epic Records)

Kat Dhalia: Miami pop/hip-hop artist opens for Magic! (Courtesy Epic Records)

HOW DID MAGIC! MAKE ITS WAY TO HAWAII?

Just as “Rude” began to hit its apex midway through the summer, it was announced that Wonderland Entertainment Group was bringing Magic! to Hawaii for a concert at Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii.

But just how did Wonderland, a small local concert promotion company best known with the EDM crowds, manage to get the hottest band around?

“All of it was timing,” said Wonderland owner Remy Kawakami.

Timing, and a good ear for music.

Kawakami said she first heard “Rude” in February or March, and immediately told her husband that she wanted to get Magic! here for a concert. In May she started trying to make contact with the band’s management.

Using her contacts with Creative Artists Agency, which represents Magic!, Kawakami eventually got in touch with the right people, and the concert was in the works. In the meantime Magic! went from near obscurity to the summer’s biggest breakout group.

Kawakami’s ear might have picked up on another prime up-and-comer in Kat Dahlia.

The Miami pop/hip-hop artist, also performing Sunday, has been getting a lot of airplay on local radio stations with the popularity of the single “Crazy.”

“Crazy” was released earlier this year but didn’t catch on nationwide. However, 102.7 Da Bomb programming director K-Smooth started to play the track a little, and it soon became a favorite among listeners.

“It’s a surprise to me, actually,” K-Smooth said. “The more and more we played it, the bigger it got. You see it in sales and downloads. The demand is there.”

He added that “Crazy” is long past its window to become a breakout hit around the rest of the nation. But if Rolling Stone is right, Dahlia could be right on the cusp of stardom: In June she was named one of publication’s “10 New Artists You Need to Know Now.”

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