Has your radio been feeling more irie recently? It might just be vibing out on the Canadian faux reggae of Magic! and their top 10 hit ”Rude.” Equal parts Maroon 5 beach buzz and Smash Mouth-style island breeze, the lead single from the band’s debut, Don’t Kill the Magic (out this week), has sent Magic! straight up the Hot 100.
That’s not especially surprising. With its straightforward lyrics and a basic groove copped by everybody from the Specials to Sublime, ”Rude” is part of a lineage of summer songs seemingly made for — and only for — the baseball-and-barbecue season. (There’s a reason Lorde’s moody ”Royals” and Adele’s weepy ”Someone Like You” simmered at a low boil through the summer months but didn’t truly ascend until after the public traded sandals for snow boots. Those songs are far too thoughtful and wordy to conquer party-rock anthems on their own turf.)
Prior to the release of ”Rude,” lead singer Nasri Atweh made his bones as one half of production duo the Messengers, co-writing and knob-twiddling for the likes of Justin Bieber, Shakira, and Iggy Azalea. So it’s not entirely shocking that ”Rude” grabbed the Big Dumb Guitar Pop baton from Australian wunderkinds 5 Seconds of Summer, whose self-titled full-length debut also arrives this week. The recent One Direction tour openers’ ”She Looks So Perfect,” with its shout-outs to American Apparel underwear and ”Hey-ey!” choruses, makes ”Rude” seem positively Proustian. It’s the type of hit that, in a decade, will remind millennials of making out in pool sheds after an illicit first (or fifth) dalliance with Smirnoff Ice.
Songs like ”Rude,” ”She Looks So Perfect,” and MKTO’s ”Classic” — another jangly pep-rally anthem with a delightfully low-IQ chorus — are part of a reliable tradition. They join the pantheon that includes Los del Rio’s ”Macarena,” Terror Squad’s ”Lean Back,” Tag Team’s ”Whoomp! (There It Is),” Color Me Badd’s ”I Wanna Sex You Up,” and, of course, Robin Thicke’s ”Blurred Lines.” Though they span years and genres, these tracks have common traits: Their almost remedial beats and fist-pump-worthy choruses make no demands on the listener, other than to dance or drink or take off more clothes. They are, in a word, stoopid.
That’s stoopid, not stupid — an important distinction. These songs are not malicious, and while none of the entrées in this seasonal buffet are good for you, they’re the purest pop delivery system in an increasingly complicated radio landscape. By the time the leaves change, ”Rude” will be a faint and possibly shameful memory. So go ahead and give in to the hedonism. There may be summer-jam hangovers, but there should be no regrets.
For a playlist of 25 years of awesomely cheesy summer songs, go to ew.com/summerdaze