Trinidad-native Machel Montano brings back the heat for the summer as soca music from the Caribbean islands hasn’t been any fresher than now. As an artist who is widely considered as one of the most recognizable soca-singers around the globe with a singing career of more than 30 years, he now wants to push forward his music to a broader field. His single ‘The Road’ acts as the catapult. With the help of R&B singer Ashanti, the fast pace track does not only impress with tropical beats and EDM sounds but also offers smooth rhythmic feels when Ashanti sings her self-written verses throughout dominant soca melodies. ‘The Road’, therefore, creates a special combination between exotic carnival and mainstream music.
According to Machel Montano, the concept idea existed for a while and originally intended to feature Rihanna. When ‘RiRi’ attended Machel’s concert in her homeland Barbados in 2015 during the island’s annual Crop Over carnival celebration – joining him on stage to perform her hits ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ and ‘What’s My Name’, a collaboration was in the talks. Rihanna, however, was unable to be part of the record, but when Ashanti performed a cover of Machel’s ‘Like Ah Boss’ at Wet Fete Weekend in Tobago in that same year, then posting a clip of her performance on Instagram and tagging Machel, he instantly wanted to work with her. During an interview with Billboard, Machel explains the song’s development: “We are always trying to hook artists into soca but the timing wasn’t right for Rihanna, so we thought it could work for Ashanti because we wanted an artist from her market to sing a song that is aimed at our market, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, the soca world […] Ashanti wrote parts for the bridge that took the song back into her world, specifics about traveling with someone you love, and being on the road with them at carnival. Her singing and lyrical brand remain intact on the track while reaching out to the carnival crowd, which is really unchartered territory for both of us.”
For Ashanti it’s like a new discovery, too. As she is rather known for her smooth R&B classics like ‘Foolish’ or ‘Rain On Me’ and bringing New York street allure with rapper Ja Rule for Irv Gotti’s hip-hop label Murder Inc., the Carribean scene is a new step into the unknown for her. Ashanti explains to Billboard: “Machel and I had really good energy. It was my first soca record and I wanted to make sure I was pronouncing everything correctly, not like I am trying too hard or like a Yankee [laughing]. My space in music where I live is mid-tempo, songs that tell stories and soca is sped up 10 times compared to my records, so this was trying something out of the box and it was a really cool feeling.” As the plan is to radio-push ‘The Road’ to bring soca closer to mainstream radio, Ashanti is more excited than ever: “I am bringing my fans to this record, so the more promotion we do, it can help to make soca bigger and for me to play even a small role in that would be awesome.”
‘The Road’ was first released in January of 2019 and made it on top of the iTunes reggae charts in that same month. A lyric video slash making-of studio session was posted on YouTube on January 21, and acts as a single of Machel’s album ‘G.O.A.T.’, released February 1, 2019. Images of the official music video were teased months later on social media and finally released on July 29. The video was filmed during the carnival days in Trinidad and Tobago, including the famous annually street party J’ouvert, where smearing with paint, mud or oil on the bodies is seen as tradition. In addition, the viewer can see some of the ‘party rituals’ like people walking with flames and crawling like animals, painted in dark mud. Another famous location in the video is Trinidad’s Tyrico Beach which was shot on Ash Wednesday. However, what probably attracts the most attention is Ashanti’s colorful peacock look, wearing a headdress with feathers plus a revealing string bikini to top off the entire outfit.
None other than Director X was chosen to direct the video. The Canadian director who formery was known as ‘Little X’ has an endless résumé of famous music videos from the late 90s until today, like ‘Promiscuous’ by Nelly Furtado, ‘Get Busy’ and ‘Temperature’ by Sean Paul, and ‘Work’ by Rihanna. According to Director X, the focus of the video is to push Carribean culture, with soca and carnival in the foreground, while having a great time with friends. The tropical vibe goes strong, and the message is therefore fulfilled, giving happy and carefree feelings.
You can check out the music video here:
In other news, Ashanti is working on her seventh studio album, a follow-up on 2014s ‘Braveheart‘. The first single ‘Say Less’ (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) was already released in late 2017, promoted with a fun-to-watch video in 2018. The album’s title and release date are unknown, but according to Ashanti will have revealing content. She also stated that she worked in the studio with Nipsey Hussle but due to legal reasons is unsure if he will be part of the final cut of the album. Furthermore, a collaborative album with long-time friend and former label-mate Ja Rule is also in the works. They already put out a song last year named ‘Encore’ and received positive feedback. Ashanti also starred and executive produced in the musical film ‘Stuck’ this year in April, where Giancarlo Esposito (‘Breaking Bad’) and Amy Madigan (‘Gone Baby Gone’) were also part of the cast.
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