I’m reliably informed by Mr. Music himself that Sean Paul has recently signed a new deal with Island Records. It’s some sort of explanation to why the Jamaican dancehall icon is everywhere right now – a Sia ‘Cheap Thrills‘ remix here, a Little Mix banger there. There’s even rumour of a Dua Lipa collaboration coming this Friday. You have to question whether these pop icons are falling over themselves to have the flavour of 2005 jumping on their tracks or whether they are simply being forced into it by their Major Lazer-loving labels. In the case of this rather bizarre track – which also features Anne-Marie, thrown to fame by the excellent ‘Alarm’ – I think the latter.
One can’t forget this is also a new look Clean Bandit, following the departure of violinist/pianist Neil Amin-Smith. After the belting success of singles like ‘Rather Be,’ ‘Real Love,’ and ‘Tears,’ changing their winning formula could be worrying but, if anything, ‘Rockabye’ is as good on Clean Bandit’s side as ever. They somehow manage to juggle their normal melting pot of electronic beats and soothing classical instruments with a Jamaican vibe steel-drumming its way into the mixture. This whirlwind of genre means that the end product is disorientating and quite different to most songs you’ll hear right now, and Anne-Marie’s vocal sections are stunning. It’s just a shame that Sean Paul feels the need to bellow his way in, shouting over the top of Anne-Marie’s offering like a playground bully trying to get his voice heard. What should be a sympathetic lullaby honouring the single mother feels cheapened by the random interjections of an aggressive, interrupting man – highlights include “Daily struggle,” “Stay up there,” and “Bidda-bang-bang-bang.” Sean Paul’s inclusion on the record feels like a cheap thrill and lessens the emotive power of what should be a tribute to single parenthood.
‘Rockabye’ is out now via Warner Music