Magic! have no intentions of going quietly. The reggae-pop band exploded out of the gate in 2014 with their Hot 100-topping single “Rude,” an omnipresent summer radio anthem that sold millions of copies, spawned viral parody videos and most notably for the four Canadian musicians behind it, carried with it the distinct possibility of being the biggest thing they’ll ever do. “The four of us are far more than ‘Rude,'” lead singer Nasri Atweh contends as he lounges on a couch one recent evening in a downtown-Chicago recording studio.
Atweh says that singing the song, particularly during the band’s seemingly neverending promo run and world tour behind the unexpected hit single and its subsequent debut album, 2014’s Don’t Kill the Magic, took a toll on him. “I started to feel like a dancing monkey,” he says, referencing “Dance Monkey Dance,” a jazzy new song on his band’s forthcoming new album, Primary Colors. “I’m definitely a good sport. I had fun singing ‘Rude’ every time. But when you do it so many times in a row every day you start to feel that way. Especially as creative beings.”
Now Magic! are hoping to turn the page with a new LP. Primary Colors, due on July 1st, doubles down on the band’s successful reggae-pop sound. While highlighted by the Sean Paul-featuring lead single “Lay You Down Easy,” the album also delves into more diverse musical territory, including the Abba-tinged “Gloria” and the acoustic ballad “No Regrets.” After playing select songs from the new LP for radio bigwigs in Chicago, Nasri sat down with Rolling Stone and explained how he believes Magic!’s new album will paints a more full picture of his band and prove that “Rude” was merely the first step in a long career arc.
How quickly did you grow tired of singing “Rude” in the wake of its success?
Instantly. The second it’s a hit every day you’re singing “Rude.” I always wanted to write a song called “Dance Monkey Dance” but I hadn’t experienced it. And then when “Rude” became a big hit it actually became something more. It was like, “Oh, I’m a fucking dancing money right now.” I always enjoy singing “Rude.” It’s not like I don’t. But when you’re doing promo it’s different than when you’re touring. When you’re doing promo you’re singing one or two songs over and over again. We would sing “Rude” three times a day, every day, often acoustically. It was like, “This is ridiculous!” It was a little much but still fun.
How did you react to criticism around “Rude”?
I think the people that didn’t like it don’t like anything. We’re talking about a certain crowd that judges everything.