He’s known for ‘In The Summertime’, but now goodwill-spreader Shaggy is stepping into the season owned by Mariah Carey by going all Mr Santatastic and releasing a festive album. Putting a Caribbean slant on yuletide records, he’s enlisted guests like Beenie Man, Joss Stone, Bounty Killer, Junior Reid, Romain Virgo, Ritchie Stephens among others to give the world a taste of how he does Christmas at home.
Check out the video to the latest single on NME first below, the dance-pop of ‘Holiday In Jamaica’ – where he teams up with Ne-Yo and the (fittingly named for the season) reggae artist Ding Dong to party in the sun, drink rum and inspire supreme jealousy while you’re huddled with the central heating on full blast, praying for a Pfizer chaser. As he notes on another track, ‘No Icy Christmas’ (feat. Sanchez), the only ice he wants to see is in his cup.
NME caught up with the legend from his home in Jamaica to talk about how he’s ready to cheer everybody up with his Christmas themed party music.
Glad tidings Shaggy! You’re here to save Christmas with your new festive album. How did it come about?
Shaggy: “The idea started last year when Sting and I did some Christmas carols – ‘Silent Night (Morning Is Coming)’ and ‘Drummer Boy’ – for a Disney special. We talked about doing a Christmas album together. When I finished my tour in the UK this year, I came back to New York and started putting ideas for it together, but COVID-19 hit, and we both got stuck in different places because he’s in the UK, so I decided it’d end up a Shaggy album. When Jamaica opened up and I could go back home, I thought of involving the likes of Beenie Man and Bounty Killer to create a Caribbean experience and calling it ‘Christmas in the Islands’.”
The new single ‘Holiday in Jamaica’ is a beach-party-ready dance tune with Ne-Yo singing: ‘Tell me what you want for Christmas…sit on me lap with your wish-list’. What was the inspiration?
“The first single was ‘Raggamuffin Christmas’ with Junior Reid and Bounty Killer, which talks about the Christmases I grew up with in the ghetto. ‘Holiday in Jamaica’, with Ding Dong and Ne-Yo, is from the perspective of a tourist bringing his girl to Jamaica for the warm weather, which we watch tourists flocking here to do every year, enjoying Mai Tais and the party vibe, with me as his guide.”
The video features you all on the beach and around the pool. There’s no fake snow or roaring log fires…
“This is the Christmas I’ve always known! In Jamaica, Christmas is all about the parties – the day party, night party, white party, weed party, rum party – it’s about going out with your friends, hopping from parties then topping it off with great food and culture. It’s not about sleigh bells and snow. But who wouldn’t want to be on the beach at Christmas with rum?”
To be fair, you don’t skimp on the sleigh bells on the record…
“That’s because we’ve been programmed from childhood to know when you hear a sleigh bell shaking, it’s Christmas. It comes from colonial days and is embedded in us – so putting them on signifies Christmas. ‘Jingle Bells’ is the song that most makes me think of the season. But because there are lots of parties in Jamaica, they normally play regular party music, so I wanted to make regular party music with Christmas themes. So you can have a rollercoaster ride of Christmas emotions. And a great time!”
Did you do anything while writing or recording to channel the yuletide spirit?
“I really sat down and thought of what’s relatable to everyone during Christmas. After a while, it becomes difficult because you don’t want to mention the same thing in a song twice. You can’t put opening presents and people drinking rum on the beach in every song. There’s a song on it called ‘Christmas Time’ featuring Jamila Falak and she nailed the Jamaican festive spirit.”
Have you got a taste for Christmas albums now? Could we see you releasing one every year like a reggae Michael Bublé?
“With Christmas albums, you can always add songs as you go along. You try to make them timeless so next year, I might put Sting on one of them or another Caribbean or Afrobeat artist. There’s never been a Caribbean Christmas dance album like this.”
How did you select which artists to collaborate with?
“Everybody was pretty open. The songs dictate the collaborations, so for instance, I could really hear the tone of Junior Reid’s voice singing ‘Raggamuffin Christmas’, and he did a terrific job. I’d known Joss Stone for a while [who appears on ‘Sunny Celebration’], and I was thinking she won a Grammy for a reggae album and has been to Jamaica on numerous occasions and loved it. So I’m giving you the experience of a Caribbean Christmas from both natives and others.”
What’s a typical Shaggy household Christmas Day like?
“We normally have a Christmas tree up, and we’ll do the presents opening then I do an amazing brunch – with all different kinds of ackee and saltfish and dumplings.”
2020’s been a dog of a year. Did you learn anything about yourself this year and do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
“I’m always learning. When you stop being a student, you’ve accepted defeat. I learned a lot about my family. As I’m always touring, I worried that when I came back home they were going to be dealing with a stranger, but I ended up loving my time with my wife and children. I got back into cooking and things didn’t seem as superficial as they did before. Now I’ve got to learn next year to get off my devices – you scroll through social media for your news and it’s just bad anyway, which just brings you anxiety and puts you in depression.”
Do you give presents to any of the artists who appear on the album? Have you had any good gifts from your musician mates?
“I’m not big on the gift-giving situation. My wife does all the gift giving and I add my name to it, but I like to have friends over and sit and drink and break bread. People’s company is more valuable than anything material somebody can give me.”
Is there more music with Sting in the pipeline?
“Sting and I make music regularly, even though we might not put stuff out right away. Just this week, he sent me some vocals he wants me to remix. He’s like the brother I never knew I needed, and has helped my confidence a lot because he’s pushed me to do things I never thought I could.
You played Donald Trump in a 2018 sketch with James Corden. Any thoughts on the recent US presidential election?
“We got him out – that’s all that matters! Now we can rebuild.”
Shaggy’s ‘Christmas in the Islands‘ is out now.