Magic! are Pleasant, Sometimes Magical on Debut
“Why you gotta be so rude? / Don’t you know I’m human too?”
The aforementioned lyric is arguably not only one of the schmaltziest, but also one of the most infectious and addictive. Apparently, a breezy, reggae-pop amalgam can do that. That’s exactly what band Magic! do, mixing a little bit of everything. Sometimes it works splendidly (“Rude”), while at other times it’s less effective, ‘tis the tale of the band’s debut, Don’t Kill the Magic. Pop songwriter extraordinaire Nasri Atweh fronts the band.
“Rude” smartly kicks off Don’t Kill the Magic, in all its tropically infused glory. The message of “Rude” is ‘ambitious’ for a pop song – marriage and chivalry. Its kind of surprising given the fact many big-time pop hits are much shallower. Unsurprisingly, “Rude” is the best song from the album.
“No Evil” isn’t too shabby, in the album’s defense. It maintains an air of reggae fare – particular the percussive groove and guitars – but also embraces a heavier, driven pop quality. Much like “Rude,” “No Evil” possesses ‘positivity.’ It begins shallowly lyrically (“Woke up in the morning to another perfect stranger / jumped into the shower to wash off the situation…”), but ends up with chivalrous intent (“all I could think of is you in that sun dress / and if there’s a chance to be with you I promise / I will speak no evil…”).
“Let Your Hair Down” continues in the reggae-pop vein, embracing the tropical sentiment more overtly than “No Evil.” The results are also more predictable compared to the opening duo, but pleasant. The backing vocals in reggae style definitely shine, as does Atweh’s lead. “Let You Hair Down” works without being the ‘greatest’ or best- developed song ever penned.
“Stupid Me” sounds familiar – think Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” While the songs are unrelated, and “Stupid Me” doesn’t have the same acclaim as Mars’ decorated hit, the record has ample pros working for it. Like everything preceding it, Magic! have successfully integrated styles. This round, it is R&B, pop, and of course ‘old faithful,’ reggae. “Stupid Me” is infectious by all means: “Oh-oh-oh, O-oh-oh-oh!”
“No Way No” is slick like everything else, also keeping things ‘scripted.’ While a few musical variations add hints of distinction, “No Way No” doesn’t distinguish itself from the most notable joints. The verses on “Paradise” are a bit over the top, with gimmicky, undertone vocals by Atweh and ridiculous talk of ‘mermaids.’ Regardless, the chorus is a highlight, and the key change within the final minute is a surprise.
The title track “Don’t Kill The Magic” almost completely abandons the reggae script (save for the bridge). This stylistic shift is a pro, given the fact that the ‘reggae-tinged’ pop sentiment was quickly growing old. That said, with Don’t Kill the Magic being mostly reggae driven, isn’t it ironic that the title track doesn’t reflect the album’s overall sentiment? It is what it is – “you could have it.”
“One Woman One Man” is a smooth, beautiful ballad, once more integrating pop and and light tropic flavor. Near the end of the song it is particularly strong, when Atweh truly asserts himself vocally. “Little Girl Big World” is like an adrenaline rush – the impact from the jump is surprising. Ultimately, the song ends up being a bit manic, but has pros as well.
“Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” and “How Do You Want to Be Remembered” conclude Don’t Kill the Magic. On “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool,” the verse is established in the reggae sensibility, with the memorable chorus leaning more pop. “How Do You Want To Be Remembered” closes in reflective manner. ‘Course, the title gives away that much.
How does Don’t Kill the Magic stack up when it’s all said and done? It’s an enjoyable album with some good moments. As a whole, it’s not perfect and arguably, more moments that transcend reggae (such as “Don’t Kill the Magic”) would have been embraced with open arms. That said, there is enough to please, particularly if breezy, tropical pop is your stylistic preference.
Gems: “Rude,” “No Evil,” “Stupid Me,” “Don’t Kill the Magic”