Jul 13

SHAGGY – “Boombastic”

Popular45 comments • 6,043 views

#727, 23rd September 1995

The key to dealing with hot weather is economy of effort – do the things you really have to with the least possible fuss, and the rest of the time, slow down, refrigerate. Which makes “Boombastic” a great heatwave hit, whenever it actually reached #1: there’s a ton of space in this record; shady, cooling space. Around the space, snatches of instrumentation: a bric-a-brac of sounds, almost unrelated, all doing the minimum. A hammered piano note; a plink higher up the register; a repeating see-saw noise; a loping bass. Drums snap and sometimes boom; a guitar confines itself to a terse lick or two then gives a sudden, thrilling squeal. It’s pop production as a fairground dark ride, a set of looping mechanisms forming themselves into a world for all the family to enjoy (or imitate in the playground).

And Shaggy is the benevolent monarch of this world, giving a comical, flirtatious, crowd-tickling performance, his army of mechanical instruments dancing in and out of his phrasing. His main trick here is using his voice like a yo-yo, winding his vowels out on “rohhhhhh-“ before he flicks the word back “-mantic!”. But every few bars he does something entertaining, endearing or teasing with that gruff, rubbery voice of his. The Gee whiz-please-breeze-keys-ease-sneeze-cheeze-peas verse is probably the highlight, but the whole thing is a summertime delight whose cheerful vibe hides its elegant construction.



  1. 1
    anto on 15 Jul 2013 #

    Another number 1 from a Levis ad. A similar record in some ways to “The Joker”. A bit indifferent for me although I’m intrigued by Shaggys number one every certain number of years pattern. Hit-making as standing order?

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 15 Jul 2013 #

    the song pulls off a neat trick of being simultaneously silly and serious. The production draws on the best qualities of dub, stripping down the music to an elegant efficiency and Shaggy delivers his words with a sensual swagger. Delightful

  3. 3
    Kat but logged out innit on 15 Jul 2013 #


  4. 4
    Auntie Beryl on 16 Jul 2013 #

    I was going to log in and defend this 8 mark, but thus far it looks like I don’t need to.

    Twice as good as You Are Not Alone.

  5. 5
    Lazarus on 16 Jul 2013 #

    I vaguely remember someone, either Vic or George Dawes, doing a silly routine to this on ‘Shooting Stars’ which I would guess was peaking around this time. They often had a little musical interlude didn’t they, skits with ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Gypsies Tramps and Thieves’ are also fondly remembered. Dunno what that ‘Peanuts’ was about though!

    This is alright isn’t it, a bit insubstantial for me but a bit of summery fun for the heatwave, as you say. No problem going to a 7.

  6. 6
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Jul 2013 #

    As this didn’t reach Ukraine (although a great deal of mass-produced cod-reggae-cum-Europop, which generally made Ace of Base sound like Bubblin’ Ranks in comparison, did), I didn’t hear this at the time, or for quite a while afterwards.

    I’m a bit a confused as there are clearly two main versions of this. One slower and a bit stripped down; and the version based around a sample of “Let’s Get It On”. And I have no idea which was considered the main/usual version at the time. But…while are both are good, the latter is a goddamn work of genius. The reference, from the very start, to the Gaye number, followed by what appears to be an allusion to Shabba’s “Mr Loverman” sets the mood – and crucially – allows Shaggy to be understated and “Mr Ro” in his courtship, and not coarse or as slack as one might expect of such a record.

    it’s a fine and lovely thing: fantastic, and, as he says, SMOOTH.

    TEN fa sure.

  7. 7
    Tom on 16 Jul 2013 #

    I had never heard the Gaye version before! It was on the US single and album release and is now the version EMI have put in the official YouTube. But it wasn’t on the UK single and wasn’t the hit here – so the review is of the original / LP mix with no sample.

  8. 8
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Grr. That brings it down to a seven or an eight, then. Still, here’s to the art of the skilful and culturally informed remixer.

  9. 9
    punctum on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Used for the 1995 Levi’s campaign, and an infinite improvement on Stiltskin, Shaggy’s second number one was a typically uproarious slice of self-mocking dancehall electro, coming on rather like a Big Youth cover of “Let’s Get It On”; the latter was extensively sampled on one mix. The hit version, though, is thrillingly minimalistic with rude blasts of malfunctioning synth guitars over a tiptoeing dub backdrop. It is impossible to take Shaggy’s macho seriously – the opening “Mr Lover” incantation may be a good-natured jibe at Shabba – as he tries to sell his sex appeal to anyone daft enough to have him (“I’m a lyrical lover/No take me for no filth”). Endemic to his superb vocal performance is the variety of ways he finds to pronounce the extended “rrrroooo”s in the chorus line “She says I’m Mr Rrrroooo-Mantic!” at times purring them like a prematurely sated cat, at others rolling the consonants over and over above and below his tongue like a motorcycle reluctant to be revved up. The track’s splendid good humour is emphasised by his frequent bursts into laughter (“Oh me oh my, well well – can’t you tell?” in the first verse, “Don’t you tickle my foot bottom, heheh, baby please/Don’t you play with my nose ‘cos I might ha-choo sneeze!” in the second; he even manages to sneak the word “fuck” in at the end without anyone noticing or minding (“No ga chat, pure fuck!” he murmurs). Such is his ridiculous confidence that he is fully aware of the fact that others may not see him as he sees himself; at the end of the first verse he freely and cheerfully admits, “And I could take rejection, so you tell me go to hell!” “Say me fantastic!” he pleads semi-rhetorically in the chorus. Glad to oblige, sir.

  10. 10
    Cumbrian on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Here is that Levi’s advert – and mighty fine it is too, as far as adverts go.


    In truth, this advert was always likely to perform well in the UK – there has long been a bit of a love affair with stop-motion animation here, stretching from Clangers, Magic Roundabout and Morph, all the way through to the Nick Park stuff and the likes of Pingu or Rastamouse on Cbeebies. Whilst perhaps not as refined as the later Park work, this ad has got the humour to be a bit of a winner. The music definitely plays its part – I doubt this would have been as successful without Shaggy’s tune.

    I am disposed to this tune currently – the weather makes a big difference I think – and would probably push to a 9. It might be a 7 in the middle of winter though. Agree with Tom that Shaggy’s delivery is great – elastic and rolling with the push and pull of the rhythm. In short: Boombastic? Me say fantastic.

  11. 11
    Another Pete on 16 Jul 2013 #

    #5 It was “50s throwback Mark Lamarr”

    Great summer tune. There’s a small village just outside Norwich called Woodbastwick, which always reminds me of it.

  12. 12
    Mark G on 16 Jul 2013 #

    This did get spoiled thanks to good old Ubiquity, it got to advertise drink and a whole bunch of stuff..

    Also, a particularly bizarre cover version by The Smurfs.

  13. 13
    James BC on 16 Jul 2013 #

    The last number 1 of the 90s reggae explosion, I think. Fitting, since it all started with Oh Carolina. I agree with the score and it’s great to see everyone giving Shaggy the credit he deserves.

  14. 14
    thefatgit on 16 Jul 2013 #

    No arguments from me. It feels so right to hear this song right now. 8 is about right.

    #11 I nominate Heckmondwicke and Barnoldswick.

  15. 15
    Andrew Farrell on 16 Jul 2013 #

    I didn’t love this at the time, it was Everything That Was Wrong With etc – needless to say I was wrong.

    My faulty memory had it that he was going to take you to an island in the deep south seas – obviously that would be sailing too close to filth for this.

    The little laughs and such remind me of MC Snagga Puss, though this probably says more about my knowledge of reggae that anything else.

  16. 16
    mapman132 on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Shaggy’s first major US hit, peaking at #3 (Oh Carolina only made #59). I can’t say it’s really my thing – I was going to give it a 5, but maybe I could be persuaded to 6.

    Shaggy’s career arc in the US (and maybe the UK too) was kind of unusual – a hit here, a hit there for several years, growing to the cusp of superstardom, at least based on record sales, around 2001, only to seemingly drop off the face of the earth after that.

  17. 17
    Ed on 16 Jul 2013 #

    @5 and @11 – It was Angelos Epithemiou, a long time after this was a hit.

    Such a great tune, he stuck with it for his solo shows, too: http://www.comedy.co.uk/live/jay_richardson/angelos_epithemiou_friends_review/

  18. 18
    Ed on 16 Jul 2013 #

    @11 – I stand corrected: Mark Lamarr did sing it, as well, in this fantastic clip:


    Obviously Reeves and Mortimer are big fans.

    Or were running out of ideas by 2009.

  19. 19
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Jul 2013 #

    I’m sorry, but I’ll have to be firmly in the minority camp here. I do love a bit of rough-hewn dub reggae, me, especially in this weather, but someone from Q* once called Let’s Get It On (the album) “a cokehead waving his erection in your face for an hour” and this is that to the nth degree. Too close to Sean Paul for comfort, and reminds me of the break point that turned most (charting) rappers into horny narcissists.. at least it’s less awkward than Sex Bomb. Strange, as when he isn’t shoving “Mr Lover Lover” in our faces, I’m quite a fan of his pop craftsmanship.


    * The strongest opinion someone from Q has ever had.

  20. 20
    punctum on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Also the stupidest. Bet they wouldn’t have said that about Oasis. Racist c*nts.

  21. 21
    Tom on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Five stars to Be Here Now suggests youre right.

    Sean Paul – well, his non-bunnied work, no spoilers for the rest – is great. If mankind ever invents a perpetual motion machine it may well owe a lot to “Like Glue”.

  22. 22
    Tom on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Anyway I think there definitely is a line – like all pop lines, an arbitrary and shifting one – where priapic shifts into “put it away, mate”. But it’s very hard for me to hear “Boombastic” as on the wrong side of it – it’s a fundamentally playful, tall-tale telling song, he’s too charming to come across as a horndog to me, let alone an annoying one.

  23. 23
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Nah, that is precisely why this song is so great (and by far the best of Shaggy’s singles): he’s being playful, flirtatious, and self-mocking, even verging on the self-deprecating. (I do wonder whether he is no mocking Shabba Ranks as well, a bit).

    C’mon, you just have to go back a few weeks to another song that begins with “Boom…” to find irritating, contemptuous, intolerable, horndogishness in your face. This is a world away from THOSE brothers. Smooth and sophisticated, this.

  24. 24
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Well I meant to write “too close to a Sean Paul tribute act for comfort” – sometimes my posts are too wordy and end up clogging up the debate. But that’s small beer in this situation. It’s unbelievable and beyond ridiculous that people have accused me of racism in this thread on other social media, which I will try to resolve in the next few minutes. After all, I’m pretty sure Tom Jones is white, and the “rap narcissism” could apply to a certain Marshall Mathers…

  25. 25
    Patrick Mexico on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Re 23: The Outhere Brothers were a bag of irredeemable jock-jam wank. I don’t find this an irredeemable, or particularly embarrassing record; it’s just monotonous more than anything. By the powers invested in one quote from a decade-old magazine I’m being compared to Varg Vikernes. I love you, Popular, but right now you’re bringing me down.

  26. 26
    hectorthebat on 16 Jul 2013 #

    Sample watch: the original version contains a sample of “Baby Let Me Kiss You” by King Floyd.

  27. 27
    fivelongdays on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Punctum – it isn’t the 1980s any more. You can criticise a record that a black person has made without being called a racist.

    Anyway, is this priapic, or is this just a rather nice piece of daftness? I’d put it in the latter category – it fits the advert from whence it came rather well, it has a nice bit of music, and it is really rather catchy. I’ve also got a theory that the protagonist isn’t actually some super-slick lovemaker and heartbreaker, but instead a regular bloke with a tendency towards ineptness with the opposite sex singing this to himself as he gets ready to go on a (probably unsuccessful) night on the pull.

    I think eight is overegging it, but in this hot weather, I’m prepared to give it seven.

  28. 28
    anto on 17 Jul 2013 #

    re27: Bearing in mind he has the same name as Scooby Doos best friend.

  29. 29
    Mark G on 17 Jul 2013 #

    He was named after that guy, his mates reckoned he looked like Norville Rogers

  30. 30
    James BC on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Do you think Shaggy made up the word boombastic independently, or is it a reference to My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style by the Dream Warriors? Or is there a common source for the word boombastic that predates both?

  31. 31

    tempted simply to claim that the common source predating both is the restlessly punful human imagination!

    this would anyway be (nearly) the natural way to pronounce “bombastic” in many places, plus jamaican (esp.rastafarian) wordplay is pretty ruthlessly plastic with vowels (and indeed consonants)

  32. 32
    James BC on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Probably right. Either way it’s inspired – imagine how much worse the song would be if it was “bombastic”.

  33. 33
    Nixon on 17 Jul 2013 #

    #31 “pretty ruthlessly plastic” scans perfectly to this, and is now stuck in my head as an alternate lyric

  34. 34
    James BC on 17 Jul 2013 #

    Just listened to the Let’s Get It On version for the first time, and I’m not keen. It’s too smooth, and it sounds more like a mashup bit of fun than a track in its own right. The buzzing, stop-start dub version’s the one for me.

  35. 35
    logged out Tracer Hand on 17 Jul 2013 #

    boombastic also provided the obvious inspiration for this unforgettable level in parappa the rapper:


  36. 36
    swanstep on 18 Jul 2013 #

    This is new to me and, at least initially, I’m quite impressed both by the track and at the imagination of the UK public for embracing it. ‘Boombastic’ reminds me of later (acclaimed) Missy Elliot records that (at the time) defied characterization. Like those M.E. tracks, Bombastic feels like it’s scratching an itch in a place you didn’t know existed before. It’s an amazing gift of ears (did Shaggy self-produce? M.E. had Timbaland.) to be able to hear all those timbres and place them in space so well, and then have them by some alchemy still belong together. Will need to live with the track for a while to be sure of what I feel about it (it took me a while to digest M.E. too), but that B’s one of the better #1s of the year seems a certainty.

  37. 37
    flahr on 18 Jul 2013 #

    ARGH curse this holiday I can’t BELIEVE I was beaten to the Parappa the Rapper reference

    flahr: u commenting BAD

  38. 38
    Steve Mannion on 18 Jul 2013 #

    A little curious as to why this didn’t come out before the Mungo Jerry cover (having misremembered ‘In The Summertime’ as the follow-up to ‘Boombastic’ for a long time).

    After an uninspiring cover and a jeans ad song the next single ‘Why You Treat Me So Bad’ (more influenced by Brooklyn hip hop, can hear it as a Gang Starr cast-off at least) a decent attempt at a hit with the stabilisers fully off and only just missed the top 10. Already Mr Orville Burrell had become one of the most successul Jamaican acts in the UK.

    anto referenced ‘The Joker’ but a much later Shaggy hit derives from it more directly.

    As well as the aforementioned Gaye-sampling version remix credited to (not that) Sting I note one by Firefox & 4-Tree who produced one of the best Jungle tracks ever in ‘Warning’ itself sampling the low-voiced Shabba, the high-voiced Junior Tucker (‘Don’t Touch My Baby’) and if not Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ then a cover of it I’m very keen to track down – so off to check that out shortly. The American release also included the b-side ‘Gal Yu a Pepper’ showcasing Shaggy’s harder toasting style.

  39. 39
    Doctor Casino on 18 Jul 2013 #

    For the longest time I knew only the Marvin Gaye version and sort of assumed it was the “primary” one – don’t know if this is a US/UK thing but I do much prefer that one. Yes, the sample is obvious so I do get the comparison to an undercooked mashup, but it also [i]works[/i] as one smooth package. I also find the guitar slashes in the reviewed version a little distracting, it feels a little too much like “OK, patch in some rock stuff, this is a genre hybrid” and it adds a little bit of aggression that I don’t think quite fits with Shaggy’s genial boasts.

    But – Tom’s review is a fair one! I’m willing to give it a few more spins. In the meantime though, the Gaye version is definitely a 7 or 8 for me. Joyous and clever, genuinely funny where it tries to be and great fun to sing along to.

    Very sad to realize “Like Glue” is not bunny-able, that would be a 9 or a 10 easily.

  40. 40
    Steve Williams on 19 Jul 2013 #

    #16 is right, Shaggy had a very odd kind of stop-start career with a big hit every few years and then very little in between. In fact I recall before playing one of his later hits for the first time, Jo Whiley invited Radio 1 listeners to guess who it was, then after it said “Amazingly that’s the new single from Shaggy!”, which certainly surprised me because he’d been off the radar for so long.

    Shaggy always seemed a very likeable pop star, and for a generation surely his finest moment was his collaboration with Zig, Zag and Cheggers.

  41. 41
    ciaran on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Only familiar with the radio hit.Had no idea of the Marvin Gaye version at all.

    Hit the top at the wrong time if you ask me.A mid July kind of single, not a back to school time reminder.

    Inspite of that I loved Shaggy. Boombastic was a perfect choice for the ad – Levis had got a the perfect modern hit after all the retros. The ace video made it better again.

    Not really heard it much over the years which is a shame.It really stands out from nearly every other 95 chart topper along with an unpcoming one we’ll get to very soon.

    A richly deserved 8.

  42. 42
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Jul 2013 #

    Unfortunately my problem with this record’s the reverse of nostalgic mark inflation. Had I been of a different age I’d probably have found Boombastic much more refreshing. But I was forced to enjoy this as a kid, so I struggle as an adult. Just like salad. Food or McObscureBritpopBand.

  43. 43
    hectorthebat on 21 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Freaky Trigger (UK) – Top 100 Songs of All Time (2005) 3
    Les Inrockuptibles (France) – 1000 Indispensable Songs (2006)
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 10
    Melody Maker (UK) – Singles of the Year 38
    Spex (Germany) – Singles of the Year 17
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – Songs of the Year 41

  44. 44
    Gareth Parker on 20 May 2021 #

  45. 45
    Gareth Parker on 20 May 2021 #

    My mistake, the above indicates that this was the first single I bought. Loved it as a 10 year old, but not so much now. I agree with Patrick Mexico’s comment (#19), a 4/10 for me.

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