There has never been a uniform path to musical stardom. Increasingly, though, a new script is emerging. It goes something like this: Local notoriety combined with online exposure via YouTube and/or MySpace attracts attention from established artists or major labels hungry to sign talent with a built-in fan base.
That's been the story lately with the likes of Justin Bieber, Owl City and Colbie Caillat. And it's the story that defines Iyaz (real name: Keidran Jones), a 22-year-old from the British Virgin Islands whose first hit, "Replay," blends soulful reggae and R&B with a dash of hip-hop.
Iyaz's mostly innocent look at young love instantly brings to mind Sean Kingston, the Jamaican-American singer whose "Beautiful Girls" topped the singles chart for three weeks in 2007. Given the pair's sonic similarities, I wasn't surprised to discover that Kingston played a big part in propelling Iyaz from regional popularity to mainstream success.
Here's how it happened:
Iyaz, along with some college friends, recorded a track called "Island Girls" that garnered airtime all over the Caribbean. That, coupled with a significant MySpace following, got Kingston's attention. Kingston began leaving messages for Iyaz in the younger singer's MySpace mailbox. At first Iyaz ignored them, assuming it was a prank. Then he got curious. What if it really was Sean Kingston?
It was. Soon Iyaz became the first artist signed by Kingston's fledgling production company, Time Is Money Entertainment.
As for the song itself, "Replay" is refreshingly devoid of the kind of sexualized, suggestive braggadocio that often masquerades as love in hip-hop and R&B. Instead we get a guy who just can't stop thinking about his girl ("Shawty's like a melody in my head/That I can't keep out/ … It's like my iPod's stuck on replay").
Iyaz goes on to reminisce about his nervousness the first day they met ("You was at the mall with your friend/I was scared to approach you/ … Hopin' you would give me a chance"). He even hopes they might one day tie the knot ("Someday I wanna make you my wife") and looks forward to making her dreams come true ("I could write you a symphony/The one that could fill your fantasies").
A token trace of rebellion creeps in on lines like, "We're real worldwide, breakin' all the rules," and "That girl is a gun to my holster."
But for the most part, Iyaz's first reggae-infused hit is a wide-eyed tribute to youthful romance—with all the "awwww" and very little of the "ewwww."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 and topped Billboard's Pop Songs chart.
Beluga Heights,Warner Bros.
July 7, 2009