Because I can’t have a music section filled with nothing but top five countdowns, welcome to my very first music review! To continue in the spirit of Trini Carnival season, we’re going to be reviewing the latest song from the monk himself, Mr MM Machel Montano’s “Beat It.”
The Ending First
Press play. Go to your nearest co-worker, sibling, friend, parent or spouse and thump them up like they’re a steel pan, whilst inexplicably chanting “Beat it! Beat the road!” Are you done? Now we can continue.
The people have been asking for it and our boy delivered. Machel Montano has given me my power soca anthem for 2017. I don’t know about you, but it is mine. If you took the time out to play it, you may find yourself asking: “But Doc, isn’t this just like the majority of recent Machel power soca songs?” Yes. Yes, it is. However, that is not a bad thing. Machel has been releasing anthem upon anthem for years. It can even be argued that he’s the best soca act around. Clearly, he has a formula for making that power soca hit, and there’s no crime in sticking to it.
That Beat Though
The song is produced by one of my favourite soca producers, Kubiyashi, along with Joli Rouge Sound and Machel Montano himself. Coming out of the blocks with an epic intro – which sounds like Super Blue’s “Fantastic Friday” had a song baby with Machel’s “Float” – a simple 4 bar (5 and a half including the horn) builds us up and leads us directly into the chorus.
THAT. STEEL. PAN. THOUGH. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. I do not know how soca producers do it. They always manage to bring a special kind of sound that gives me the right amount of nostalgia, without making it obvious whether or not if it was sampled. Scratch Master did a great job mixing and mastering the track. Nothing sounds overbearingly powerful, yet the percussion from the steel pan is very solid and drives the song. Kudos to Johann Chuckaree, the pan player in the song, that I can’t seem to shut up about.
The structure of the song is pretty basic, which works. Verse, bridge, hook, chorus. Simple but effective. However, at the end there’s a very pleasing break in the song where the track slows down from 160 to 110 BPMs (around the tempo of Machel’s “Gyal Wuk”). This section of the song substitutes the steel pan with a guitar, reminiscent of most Caribbean folk music.
Disclaimer: This is a party song and the lyrics reflect that. The lyrics aren’t moving me to be a better person. It’s not going to make me tell my ex-girl “Sorry.” It will not make me recycle. This song will make me jump up and down for a couple of minutes like a clown, stomp, move my shoulders and repeat maybe ten keywords. That is the purpose of the song.
With that out of the way, it’s only as I’m writing this paragraph that I’m actually listening to the words. The song has a great melody and a captivating beat. If Machel sang about the current state of the global economy, I wouldn’t notice. If he sang about the dying bee population (GOOGLE THIS!), I wouldn’t notice.
In case you can’t tell, I’m whatever the literary equivalent of stalling is.
Party music is very similar to pop music; give me a catchy hook, a bomb beat and a few keywords and I’m good. So in comparison to other party soca music – songs that follow the same formula, use keywords, melodic hook and a bashy beat – these lyrics are decent. In comparison to any song not produced by Diplo or Skrillex, this song is not memorable at all. I’ve listened to it approximately eight times at this point and I have no idea what homeboy is singing about. It’s the same as the soca songs we’ve been hearing for years. I’m not too sure why the song had five writers (Jason “Shaft” Bishop, Machel Montano, Joli Rouge Sound, Alex “Kubiyashi” Barnwell & Kitwana Israel), but the writers of the song are also the producers. So I’d like to imagine they were in a room with a soca rhyming dictionary (which has to exist at this point), strung together a few words and called it a day at the races.
All in all, the lyrics are very weak, predictable and repetitive (fun challenge: count how many times you hear the word beat). However, this is all okay. It is a party song; you don’t want to be wukkin up in a fete to a song about a dead dog named Red. We’re satisfied with the soca formula of just throwing around keywords: “carnival”, “bacchanal”, “sexy gal”, “drinking rum”, “’nuff’ woman”, “real, real fun.” Give me a “boom-tit-tit” beat and I just wrote the first hit for Crop Over 2017.
Call your favourite radio station now and request this song. The song is sweet, the song is vibes, the song is action. Go in Old Jamm Inn on Friday, come to me when I’m playing and request it. It is a great party song. It is a Machel song. His energy is there and his vocals are strong. You knew it was a hit before you read this. But it will not motivate you to run for a government position and that’s just fine.