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10 Years, 100 Songs: #46. “All I Know, The Time It Is Getting Dread…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 3, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

Seems like about the same time every decade, the US gets hit with a wave (well, maybe something less draatic than a wave–a small crest, perhaps) of Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced crossover artists, temporarily bringing pop music out of its national duldrums. In the 80s it was Eddy Grant and Musical Youth, in the 90s it was Shaggy and Inner Circle, and in the 00s…well, we got something close to a whole movement, with dancehall taking the nation by storm and popping out a new smash seemingly every month or so. Lumidee’s “Never Leave You (Uh-Oh),” Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go,” Rupee’s “Tempted to Touch,” Nina Sk’s “Move Your Body” and countless others lit up the airwaves, brightening the pop landscape with their infectious riddims and sweet, sun-soaked melodies. But aside from artists like Rihanna and Pitbull who used dancehall as a jumping off point to much greater success in other genres, the movement only produced one legitimate superstar–Sean Paul Ryan Francis Henriques, or to those that know and love him, just Sean Paul.

It’s hard to say what made Sean Paul a decade-long hitmaking machine where so many of his contemporaries had to settle for one-off status. He wasn’t particularly charismatic or outrageously good looking, his videos were generally nothing special, and if anything, his Jamaican patois was more impenetrable than the average dancehall crossover artist. I guess the most logical explanation would have to be that most boring of reasons–he had more good songs than everybody else. 2003 was the year of “Hey Ya!,” the year of “In Da Club,” the year of The Ataris’ “Boys of Summer” cover if that was more your thing–but most of all, it was the year of Sean Paul. Not only did he go wire-to-wire with his own glut of smashes- (“Gimme the Light,” “Get Busy,” “Like Glue,” “I’m Still in Love With You”) he started showing up on others’ mega-hits, like Beyonce’s chart-topping “Baby Boy” and Blu Cantrell’s (UK-)chart-topping “Breathe.” And they were all great. It made pop-watching so much more pleasant to know I could turn on a radio station or video channel, and I was practically guaranteed to be greeted with the dulcet tones of Sean Paul within the hour.

“Get Busy” was the biggest of Paul’s hits, and the one that probably cemented him as a legitimate pop force, but my heart will always belong to “Like Glue.” I was on vacation with my family in Hawaii for a couple weeks in the summer of 2003, and one of my strongest memories of the trip is how the entire time I was there, I could not for the life of me get “Like Glue” out of my head. This was compounded by the fact that it was maybe the last time in my entire life that I would go a period of that length without being able to instantly summon pop songs to my fingertips, as I did not yet have a laptop or mp3 player. So I would wake up early and turn on MTV in the hotel while my family slept, in the hopes of getting temporary relief from the song’s grasp on my brain by actually getting to hear it. Luckily the video was so big that summer that it getting played was usually a fairly safe bet. Then a couple hours later, I was singing to myself again, “But I don’t really care what people say…”

Making things even more difficult was that I had no clue whatsoever what the fuck he was saying for 99% of the song. As previously stated, Sean Paul did not exactly go out of his way to make things easier for his American audiences–as far as I can tell, there are only two entirely comprehensible lines in the entire song, which are the first line and the “still I got to stick to my girls like glue” line (which doubtless is why “Like Glue” was picked as the song’s title, as it’s one of the few phrases audiences would surely be able to pick out). For the rest, even in the chorus, your guess was about as good as mine. “I don’t really watch what dem wan do”? “And I man nah play number two”? “Got a lot of damsel in my bed to run that re-ed?” Closed captioning was little help, and even when I buckled and actually bought Dutty Rock, the lyric sheet revealed even less.

In the end, though, I think the total incomprehensibility probably helped “Like Glue” more than it hindered it. If you wanted to do the research and decipher exactly what ” Well yuh done know seh dat man haffi rule de school” and the rest of the song’s lyrics meant, then good on you (my personal educated guess is sex, pot-smoking and various combinations thereof). But the rest of us could just have fun phonetically chanting the lyrics like idiots, blissfully unaware of what we were actually singing. And I definitely love the way the “Like Glue” lyrics sound–I can rap along to pretty much the entire song when I hear it, though I could only identify a fraction of the actual lyrics. Anyway I don’t think too many people expect brilliance from their dancehall lyrics, so it might not be such a bad thing to stay so ignorant. With a song as immensely pleasurable as this, words are very unnecessary–they can only do harm.

Besides, it’s not like there isn’t enough to focus on in the music alone. With synths pulsating, squelching, and percolating in different patterns in the background, “Like Glue” had a pop sheen not often seen in dancehall, even among the bigger crossover hits–it was a beat complex and attention-demanding enough that Timbaland or The Neptunes would likely have been proud to call it their own. The best part, no doubt, is that little stutter-synth hook towards the last few measures of each verse and chorus, which almost sounds like it was swiped from some late-90s trance anthem, but somehow fits in perfectly among all this song’s bells and whistles. Sean Paul is probably wise not to let up with his vocal for the entire song–he’s on before the beat kicks in, and rides it out to the very end, barely even pausing to take a breath in the interim–since it easily could have overwhelmed a lesser MC.

Though he never quite reached his ’03 level of popularity again–few popular artists could have, let alone one as generally unlikely as he–Sean Paul stayed in the picture throughout the decade, with follow-up album The Trinity producing another trio of winners with “We Be Burnin’,” “Give It Up to Me” and his second #1 hit, “Temperature.” It won’t last forever–recent comeback single “So Fine” isn’t exactly setting the charts ablaze, showing that the time may indeed be getting dread for Sean Paul–but it was very nice that we got to spend more than fifteen minutes of the Naughty Oughties with Mr. Henriques. Here’s hoping that when the wave (er, small crest) next hits in the ’10s, it’s led by a gentleman half as worthwhile.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue”

One Response to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #46. “All I Know, The Time It Is Getting Dread…””

  1. Sam Skeen said

    I don’t know why, but for some reason I have really vivid memories associated with all the huge songs of 03-04. It was a pretty good run for pop music I guess, and it was our senior year, which was a lot of fun, so this isn’t a bad thing at all. I remember so clearly driving around the main line (probably on the way to or from your place) and mumbling along to this song. I never knew the lyrics, but could kind of produce gibberish that sounded like Sean Paul.

    Around the same time, I put “I’m Still in Love With You” on a mix for Sonja (first one I ever made her, I think). Somehow, she could understand the lyrics, and apparently that song is all about how Sean Paul can’t be monogamous. She confronted me about it and I said something to the effect of “don’t read into it, the only line I could actually understand was ‘I’m still in love with you boooooyyyyyy.'”

    Oh man, the nostalgia…

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