Iyaz — “Replay”

Released: 7.7.09

Peak: #2

The verses are little more than voice and handclap. The chorus is the sort of tune you’d whistle offhandedly and forget, rendered somehow unforgettable, its lyric updating the hoary conceit of the beloved as a inescapable melody with the homely and timely comparison “like my iPod stuck on replay.” Pop music’s charms rarely come so guileless anymore.

Not that the 22-year-old British Virgin Islander singing “Shawty’s like a melody in my head” is some outsider naïf who stumbled across fame. Keidran Jones hustled plenty before he became the protégé of the weirdly popular Sean Kingston. And yet, compare the airy effortlessness of “Replay” to Kingston’s clumsy “Beautiful Girls,” which, despite undue assistance from Lieber/ Stoller and the singer’s digitized Caribbean lilt imbuing the word “suicidal” with puppy-dog yearning, failed to create as breezy a vibe.

“Replay” producer J.R. Rotem was also behind the forced retro lope of “Beautiful Girls.” Rotem, after crafting a great Rihanna hit, had made his name by servicing scumbags like Rick Ross and Plies; he later lazily reworked Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” into “Whatcha Say,” Jason Derulo’s bald apotheosis of post-Usher manslut self-pity (“I don’t want you to leave me/ Though you caught me cheatin'” and so forth). He owed us, then. And here the overall sparseness of his track sets up nice decorative bits: squelchy synths, orchestral synths, washy synths, and bros who chime in with a supportive “Hey!”

Iyaz would later score a minor hit with his Janet-jacking follow-up, “Solo,” and he’s gone on to collaborate (if that’s what you call those forced exercises in synergy that have come to dominate pop) with Miley and Demi and Travie. He may have a long career of callow work-for-hire stints that neither you or I notice ahead of him. But for three minutes, Iyaz was able to approximate the feeling of awe for another human being that love can inspire, and without being either neurotic or possessive about it. That’s no small thing. You could say that his best moment is behind him. But the whole point of “Replay” is that such moments can go on and on. Na na na.

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