Canadian reggae fusion quartet MAGIC!, fronted by accomplished pop songwriter Nasri Atweh, returns with their sophomore album which is definitely a step up, but ultimately falls into many of the same holes as the first. Once again, the singles are clearly the main attraction, rising above the competition while the album’s second half falls into a repeating pattern of by-the-numbers filler tracks. For a band looking to evolve past their explosive #1 hit single “Rude”, even going as far as to dedicate a track to their disdain for the song, they do not seem to put any more effort into making a cohesive whole of a project. Instead, they once again put their energy into the creation of a select few spectacular singles. I would not be surprised if there is another worldwide smash hit in the bunch, and the cycle will repeat.
But of course, when Primary Colours is good, it’s very good and it stands as a refreshing breath of fresh air infused into the landscape of pop music. There is no real competition for this sound at the moment, barring Sean Paul’s apparent resurgence (he even pops up on this album!)It is something unique and interesting right now. The main problem here exists in the formula employed – it works very well in small doses, but stretched to album length it inches closer to monotony. A more diverse set of sounds would be welcomed on the next effort, while still keeping the classic sound that shot them to worldwide recognition.
After all, MAGIC! works best when they operate in full Jamaican mode. Something about that familiar rhythmic pattern of a reggae beat is still able to stand the test of time. “Lay You Down Easy”, featuring Sean Paul, and “Red Dress”, the two songs with the most reggae flavour and coincidentally-or-not the first two singles from the album, are far and away the two best. They fully grasp the opportunity these slinking backdrops provide to add other reggae conventions like harmonies and more complex rhythms which are not as present on their more pop-leaning tracks.
“Red Dress” in particular is a fantastic choice for a single and I hope it gets as much recognition as “Rude” did outside their native Canada. The same sense of sheer joy is there, and in the same way one can’t help but smile when they drops into the chorus again. It’s simply one of the most fun songs that have come along in a long time, and Atweh’s seductive and suave vocals complement it well. A near perfect track.
The band with plaques for “Rude”
Past the singles, however, the instrumentals tend to get too boring to try anything other than reggae. We don’t hear the genre anywhere else, which is why the first half of the album stands out, but the more downtempo ballads and pop songs they provide later verge on generic. If more creativity was injected here, the band could be a cross-genre force. “No Regrets” and “I Need You” are particularly slow and uninteresting. As mentioned, “Dance Monkey” is a thinly veiled declaration of the frustration associated with the success of “Rude”, saying that the labels jumped on the one song and took away creative direction, and his sadness at not appreciating his songs “from the heart” as much as they one they knew. A very interesting concept for a song, truly a shame that it is a formulaic pseudoreggae song which checks the boxes and does not have the same creative quality as the album’s first half.
Most of the songs then fall into this pattern. “No Sleep” is the bright spot in the album’s second half; while the song is incredibly repetitive I don’t mind because it’s so downright hilarious. The song is a lament on life while married with children, getting no sleep as a result. All things considered, MAGIC! is a band with so much untapped potential. Imagining the album that would result if the best tracks of their first two albums were put together on one makes me long for what could have been. Atweh’s voice is fantastic and he has written numerous hits for Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, Jason Derulo and others. I still hold on to hope for future projects.
Favourite Tracks: Red Dress, Lay You Down Easy, Gloria, No Sleep
Least Favourite Track: The Way God Made Me