Reggae and dancehall mainstay Shaggy offers an in-depth look at his new song, “You.” He describes it as the anti-“It Wasn’t Me,” in the latest installment of Rolling Stone‘s “How I Wrote This.” The track features 19-year-old Canadian singer Alexander Stewart, who joins Shaggy for a performance of “You” at the end of the clip.
While the musician’s 2000 smash “It Wasn’t Me” told a wild story of infidelity and not-so-plausible deniability, Shaggy says “You” is “about your admiration for this one girl, it’s like having goggles … This is all about focusing on that one person who has caught your eye and who you feel is your soulmate.”
“You” combines elements of EDM, tropical house, dancehall and Afrobeat, and the song began with an infectious synth line producer Dwayne Shippy came up with in the studio. The drums, a warped vocal sample, the melody and the lyrics quickly followed, but Shaggy says, to complete the song, they needed another vocalist who had the range to match the song’s high key. At first he toyed with the idea of getting a female singer to give the song a call-and-response vibe, but then his manager recommended he reach out to Stewart.
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“Holy shit he nailed it,” Shaggy says of Stewart’s vocal turn on the song. “The color in his voice, the tone, it complemented the instrumentation. And then a little superstition got in there too, because every hit record [I’ve had] is from singers who are young, unknown. Like when I did ‘It Wasn’t Me,’ Rikrok was this young, unknown singer that no one knew; Rayvon and ‘Angel’ was the same. So I just think I have luck with that, so with Alexander I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s rock with it.'”
“You” appears on Shaggy’s new album, Was Gwaan?! which was released in May. The album marked his first solo effort in six years, while it also followed his 2018 Grammy-winning album with Sting, 44/876.