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Sep 15

SHAGGY feat. RIKROK – “It Wasn’t Me”

Popular31 comments • 2,954 views

#891, 10th March 2001

shaggywasnt One of the things dancehall does supremely well is project authority. The genre is born in competition – between soundsystems, between MCs. While rappers jealously guard their beats, dancehall MCs submit themselves to judgement over the same riddims as their peers, and one way to stand out is through sheer stentorian dominance. Not every MC takes this route – some are lovers, some jokers, some storytellers – but I’d guess for casual Western listeners the platonic form of dancehall involves a gruff bark riding atop a beat like Zeus on his thundercloud.

This is the image “It Wasn’t Me” has so much fun with. Shaggy’s character – the “true player” – takes the MC’s self-confidence to a level that rewrites reality itself. His helpless partner, Rikrok, struggles to find a detail that will make Shaggy relent, back down, admit there are things you simply can’t brazen out. But Shaggy is as remorseless as he wants his poor protégé to be. “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.

Male duets are rare at the top – this one is unique for being staged as a buddy comedy, and Rikrok, the featured artist, pulls more than his weight as straight man. His lilting, gentle storytelling reminds me of Craig David, giving an extra kick to the lover vs player theme, and lending the song a sweetness its lyrics hardly suggest. If there’s a dreamier, milder-mannered way to sing “picture this, we were both buck naked, banging on the bathroom floor”, I can’t readily imagine it. And the music is more in line with Rikrok’s vocals – a springtime saunter built on that hazy four-note keyboard run, which barely stretches itself once it’s past the introduction. (Though there are a few nice touches, like that extra percussive hit on each beat once Shaggy starts laying down the law.)

Rikrok gets the last word too, shutting down Shaggy’s dreadful advice – “you may think that you’re a player but you’re completely lost” – and leaving an odd hole in the song where you expect a third set of “It wasn’t me” refrains. But the older man’s top billing is no injustice. This is a panto where we remember the villain. Shaggy’s absurd denials are the heart and hook of the song, the part anybody repeated. Taken seriously, his advice isn’t just bad, it’s sinister – gaslighting in excelsis, a determined attempt to simply overrule someone else’s memory of events. And we put up with a public sphere packed with Shaggys, who know that a massive, repeated lie can often tramp the truth down for long enough that they get away with it.

Of course, “It Wasn’t Me” isn’t taking anything seriously, or asking you to – it’s a jaunty novelty record, which Shaggy never planned as a career-reviving hit. Even so there’s something real behind his rogueish patter. The reason brazen public liars get away with it is partly because the chutzpah required is charismatic, even attractive, to anyone already inclined to believe them. As a relationship counsellor, Shaggy is a bust. But he has that charisma, and I leave the record wanting more of it.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    Ricardo on 8 Sep 2015 #

    Seeing how Shaggy has just made a comeback (of sorts) with “I Need Your Love”, I dare ask: is there anyone in the history of pop with such a penchant for career falls and resurrections like him? I get the feeling he’s one of a kind on that respect, as it’s already been three of those until now, at least.

  2. 2
    JLucas on 8 Sep 2015 #

    I’m a little disappointed that Shaggy’s current single (his first top 40 since 2002) seems unlikely to climb any higher than its current peak of #36. It’s nothing special, but I enjoy his improbable ability to pop up with a random hit after increasingly lengthy gaps. I look forward to yet another in 2030.

    This was the highest seller of 2001, a year featuring a fair number of very big records. Like any novelty song, it got annoying very quickly at the time, but returning to it now I do find it very likeable. There was always something quite cartoonish about Shaggy, and I enjoy the unabashed silliness here. It’s rare for any record to allow its star to come across as the butt of the joke, but this song revels in it.

    I do think Rikrok was the secret weapon on this one. There’s such lightness and clarity to his vocal, it couldn’t contrast more effectively with Shaggy’s much-imitated style. Plus there’s a certain, if not likeability, then haplessness to his delivery that it stops the record from just being two horrible people dumping on some poor judgement-impaired woman. The only flaw is that he doesn’t convince for a moment as the sort of lothario who would routinely be banging the next door neighbour on the bathroom floor – but then if he did this was be rather a hateful record. Instead, it’s an oddly charming one.

    8/10 – Not something I want to hear all the time, but a fun idea executed well.

  3. 3
    JLucas on 8 Sep 2015 #

    I had it in my head that this had an Atomic Kitten-esque run at the top, but actually It Wasn’t Me only managed a single week. It did clock up another six weeks in the top 3 though, hence the high sales total.

    Second-highest new entry the week this went to #1 was ‘Nobody Wants To Be Lonely’, the last significant UK hit for Ricky Martin in a duet with vocal foghorn Christina Aguilera, who predictably steamrollers her duet partner. All show and precious little intimacy, this is justifiably forgotten today, and not a patch on his duet from the previous year, the genuinely rather lovely ‘Private Emotion’ with Meja.

    #5 finds the first of many chart entries for Nelly Furtado. I’m Like A Bird was a huge radio hit and set her up for a spotty but interesting chart career over the next decade or so.

    #8 and #9 are both occupied by singles from the Manic Street Preachers, both released on the same day in a gimmick that possibly harmed both. In any event, this marked the end of their period as a major chart force, and with the exception of one forthcoming revival, all of their top 40 entries from here on in are purely fanbase-driven and disappeared as quickly as they arrived. As far as the actual songs, So Why So Sad was quite nice, I can’t really remember how Found That Soul went, but I think it was a more aggressive nod to their pre-Everything Must Go days.

    #11 was the first of 3 top 40 hits for Kaci, one of many photogenic US teen pop girls to flood the charts in Britney’s slipstream. I think she was (or was marketed as) vaguely latino so there was a touch of J.Lo in there too. This was alright, pretty much the definition of a #11 hit.

    #16 The obligatory faceless trance hit of the week, this time by Mario Piu presents DJ Arabesque with The Vision. Mario Piu had a more memorable hit two years previously with the irritating ‘Communication (Somebody Answer The Phone)’.

    #18 He Don’t Love You, the sole UK top 40 for Australian boyband Human Nature, who may never have taken here but remain popular on home turf, having now released ten successful studio albums and three compilations. I presume their sound evolved because this was utterly by-the-numbers.

    #24 Model Caprice scoring her second (and final) UK top 40 with a song written by Chesney Hawkes! She’s not much of a singer but Once Around The Sun is nicer and more dignified than anyone could have reasonably expected. A bit downtempo Sheryl Crow.

    #26 Love What You Do by Divine Comedy, a band (was it a band, or just Neil Hannon?) who never quite recovered from their horrible 1999 novelty hit ‘National Express’. I never cared to investigate them but from what I did hear of their other chart entries, it didn’t seem to be all that representative.

  4. 4
    flahr on 8 Sep 2015 #

    I don’t know if I was uniquely dense but certainly hearing this at the time (at the age of 7) the plot of it went right over my head – of course Shaggy gruffly intoning “wasn’t me” infinitely catchphraseably was enough to make it a big playground hit (as well as the nudey nudey bum bums implied by the lyric) but it was nice to discover on coming back to this a year or so ago that it’s actually more complex than that, and, more importantly, pretty damn funny. JLucas’s “haplessness” is bang on – RikRok’s story is pretty pathetic by itself (the way his part of the chorus escalates so grossly and the hole he’s in gets ever-deeper – “she even caught me on CAMERA!” with a little wail at the end). And then Shaggy’s brazenness, so doomed to failure that even the recipient of the advice is gobsmacked by how not even wrong it is – even if Shaggy has the chutzpah to carry it off we know that RikRok would get a slap and a suitcase full of his clothes before he reached the apostrophe. The wonderfully sitcom “she stayed until it was over”, conjuring images of RikRok’s girl next door still grunting stoically away even as his face is frozen in fear and his woman is staring straight at him, tips us off as to what this is – finely-tuned farce, and really something of a delight. Gonna tell her that I’m [7] for the pain that I’ve caused

  5. 5
    mapman132 on 8 Sep 2015 #

    I’ve always found Shaggy’s increasingly ludicrous “it wasn’t me”s rather amusing – not enough that I’d want to own this, but enough that I’ll concur with Tom’s 6/10. Shaggy had (has?) a strange career arc in the US with this finally getting him to the top of the Hot 100 eight years after “Oh Carolina” peaked at #59. With another bunnied US #1 and either the second or third-highest selling album of the year, it seemed like US superstardom had been reached, only to fall off a cliff immediately thereafter. His next album missed the US top 20, and he never had another Hot 100 appearance after the bunny. Even in 2001, he seemed rather low profile for someone dominating the charts so much. I’m not sure why.

  6. 6
    lonepilgrim on 8 Sep 2015 #

    I’d like to think this was a deliberate parody of songs where the singer begs his girlfriend to forgive him after straying with another. RikRok sounds so beguiling that it takes Shaggy’s absurd advice to puncture the illusion. She should kick him to the curb, to quote the parlance of those times.

  7. 7
    Billy Hicks on 8 Sep 2015 #

    This is the first Shaggy #1 I remember, and for a ridiculously long time I assumed Shaggy was the one singing the majority of the song while the dude croaking “It wasn’t me!” must be the Rikrok bloke. I was baffled when I found out it was the other way round, it seemed weirdly unfair given the verse/rap ratio.

  8. 8
    AMZ1981 on 8 Sep 2015 #

    I have a rather strange memory involving this song. I was browsing CDs in WH Smiths when a little boy and his mother came up to the single racks. The little boy said, `Look Mum, there’s Shaggy`. His mother picked up the single, looked critically at it and suggested the little boy might want to save his money for something with more songs on it. It’s unbelievable how anachronistic that scene would have been by the end of the decade.

    JLucas has beaten me to most of the stats. It Wasn’t Me entered at number one having spent a few weeks kicking around the lower reaches on import. It managed a solitary week before being barged aside by two chart toppers with massive TV campaigns behind them and dropped 2-3 before rising back to 2 where it stayed for four straight weeks. In most normal circumstances it would have been a five week runner at least.

    However it wasn’t. Instead (and with the exception of 2010 when the biggest selling single of the year isn’t bunnied) it marks the one occasion to date where the year’s number one only managed a solitary week at the summit.

    A final point. I’m surprised that Ms Jackson didn’t pick up more discussion during the Whole Again thread but had that made the top we’d have had two successive chart toppers that indicated the direction hip hop was moving in and which would dominate in years to come.

  9. 9
    Mark G on 9 Sep 2015 #

    There was an old movie which I am struggling to remember which had a scene where the woman arrives to find her man and another woman in bed, to which the man denies everything that is happening whilst both parties are getting dressed and the other woman leaves. Was Ian Carmichael involved? I dunno..

    Anyway, when this came out it reminded me of that film scene..

    Anyone?

  10. 10
    JLucas on 9 Sep 2015 #

    #8 I’ll give you Outkast, but did Shaggy really indicate much about the direction HipHop was moving in? His success at this time feels quite anomalous to me. I certainly wouldn’t put him in the company of Outkast, 50 Cent, Eminem, JA Rule, R Kelly or any of the other urban acts who would become chart forces over the next few years. Listening back to him now, his cartoonish, family-friendly style feels rather quaint. The closest comparison I’d make would be to Will Smith, whose days as a chart staple were already behind him by Spring 2001. (And even he had a degree of swagger, whereas Shaggy always came across as more of a likeable buffoon).

  11. 11
    Alan on 9 Sep 2015 #

    The Eddie Murphy bit that Shaggy said inspired this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_f6qFBQD9U

    Shaggy “how i wrote” on Tonight (has pre-roll ad) http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/how-i-wrote-that-song-shaggy-it-wasnt-me/2861268

  12. 12
    James BC on 9 Sep 2015 #

    It took me a while to notice that this isn’t really reggae at all – instead the instrumental reminds me a bit of How Bizarre by OMC.

    Total masterpiece in my book, anyway. 6 seems very low as I find it endlessly enjoyable, pulling off the trick of being funny without being a comedy song. I love the cheesy dialogue over the opening, the lampshading of how the lyric makes no sense, Rikrok’s increasing exasperation with his friend… so many little touches.

    Was it R Kelly who got accused a few years later of using “the Shaggy defence”?

  13. 13
    Steve Mannion on 9 Sep 2015 #

    I tend to link this with Monsta Boy ft. Denzie’s ‘Sorry (I Didn’t Know)’ which will be familiar to 2Step fans at the time with its “I can see whole my world changing…” chorus – purely because the creamy vocals on both play on one wrongdoer desperately trying to deal with the pain of the fallout yet just as painfully tactless in doing so. In RikRok’s case the bathroom floor reference (“picture THIS, I mean how terrible what am I like? I know!”), in Denzie’s case, with the song addressed to his betrayed partner directly rather than a dispassionate bro, more than one reference to sleeping with his girl’s BEST FRIEND. The song stops short of actually suggesting both Denzie and his girl’s best friend were trying to sabotage each other – probably too complex for what is, like It Wasn’t Me, a sunny, strangely upbeat song – tho that would’ve been great fuel for an answer record.

  14. 14
    Phil on 9 Sep 2015 #

    One of the first things I noticed when O Carolina came out was that the man literally can’t sing – he can’t stay on pitch. One of the nice touches of this song is partnering him with somebody who sings like an angel – and then having the angel-voiced guy singing outrageous yarn-spinning filth, the kind of thing that makes you laugh and wince at the same time (“she stayed until it was over” – dear oh dear). Then of course Shaggy himself is the voice of pure amoral lust and selfishness – he even sounds like a Monster from the Id – and the song resolves by packing him off to the cellar of moral disapproval, while Rikrok’s obsessive not-quite-an-apology turns around to focus on the person he’s actually supposed to be apologising to. A little therapeutic pop gem – 8. (All this without re-listening to the song, incidentally; (a) it’s memorable and (b) I may just be remembering my own version of it.)

  15. 15
    The last of the secret agents on 9 Sep 2015 #

    I am a long time reader but never commented before now. Thanks Tom for doing this and the always interesting conversation that follows.

    I agree with most of the comments here. An accomplished and memorable piece of pop that always brings a smile to my face but I can never imagine searching it out. 7

    Is anyone familiar with the answer back record?

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=fOPMHQ0cWNI

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 9 Sep 2015 #

    Back in my childhood, I used to enjoy “Crackerjack!” (It’s Friday, it’s Five to Five, it’s…). One of the most enjoyable elements, was the comedy sketch that featured a parody of a then current hit record. Maybe it’s false memory syndrome, but I got the feeling Peter Glaze and Don McLean would base these sketches around the song they had chosen to parody. Often these sketches would go to great lengths in order to make the parodied song relevant to the situation. I only mention this because Shaggy & RikRok seem to have based “It Wasn’t Me” on the model of a Glaze/McLean parody, inasmuch taking a ridiculous situation and fashioning a workable pop song out of it, rather than taking a popular hit and fashioning an hilarious 5 minute sketch from it.

    Of course, neither Shaggy nor RikRok would have the first clue about Crackerjack!, but they were pulling at a similar thread that Glaze and McLean had woven all those years ago. File under fun. (7)

  17. 17
    Phil on 9 Sep 2015 #

    Weirdly, I can just hear Peter Glaze doing a tea-time version of the verses – although what that would be I’m not quite sure, it would probably have to be a complete rewrite – and I can definitely hear Don Maclean putting in the “It wasn’t me”s.

    Peter Glaze, what a man. There’s somebody else who couldn’t hold a tune in a bucket, but he never let it hold him back. I’m shocked to find that he was only 65 when he died – from when I first started watching him he seemed older than Samuel Jackson or Olivia Newton-John does now, but apparently not.

  18. 18
    Chelovek na lune on 9 Sep 2015 #

    Good fun, that is refreshing and enjoyable heard once in a while, but gets irritating with repeated listening. Kind of accomplished in its way though – and all the better for Shaggy laying low for so much of the time – his performance is perfect here when reduced to the quantity at which he appears, Rikrok doesn’t put a foot wrong either. Cons? Rather more about the story than the melody. Not a patch on Boombastic (if you got the right mix), either. Still a good 6.

  19. 19
    will on 9 Sep 2015 #

    Re 16: I used to love the Crackerjack finale you talk about! For a pop-obsessed 6 or 7 year old who wasn’t old enough to own a radio it was another chance to hear ‘my music’ beyond the weekly appointment in front of TOTP. Didn’t matter that neither Glaze or McLean (nor Jan Hunt) could sing, it was the tune that counted.

    And It Wasn’t Me? It makes me smile. I think you’d have to be a fun-hating misanthrope to object to this, wouldn’t you?

  20. 20
    Ronnie on 10 Sep 2015 #

    Such a hilarious song. My favorite detail is that Rikrok’s sex is downright acrobatic, pounding through every room in the house. And the girlfriend just watches the whole thing, and even has the presence of mind in the pre-smartphone era to go get a video camera. Either she has ice water in her veins or she was actually kind of into it. Perhaps instead of alibis he should be asking Shaggy for advice on how to get this to happen again.

  21. 21
    JoeWiz on 10 Sep 2015 #

    I think this is rather joyous. Not something I could listen to everyday, but as mentioned, Rikrok’s angelic lilt is almost impossible to dislike. What happened to him?
    I remember hearing Moyles interview Shaggy on his afternoon show a day or two after 9/11. It was one of the most confused things I’ve ever heard.

  22. 22
    Alan Connor on 11 Sep 2015 #

    Mashup Watch: I think the melody is deftly showcased in http://youtu.be/SDGpiumJ49o

  23. 23
    anto on 11 Sep 2015 #

    The voices of RikRok (syrup) and Shaggy (molasses) combined to give me toothache.
    Is this an example of sitcom R&B? – There is an air of ‘William Gaunt is now appearing in ‘Where Did You Last See Your Trousers? ‘ at the Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth’ about it.

  24. 24
    Auntie Beryl on 11 Sep 2015 #

    Not my usual cup of tea, but as others have said difficult to dislike (7).

    I associate “It Wasn’t Me” with the rise of mp3 – the first song I downloaded from the internet was a parody of this, “Caught Me One Handed”(here if you don’t know it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyzKfk-kRgA). Rikrok’s parody is basically a list of wanking euphemisms.

    I was still working in the indie shop at the time, so convinced myself that as long as the song wasn’t commercially available, I wasn’t digging my own career grave… of course, as soon as I left that job, it was all AudioGalaxy, LimeWire and (soon enough) Booty and mashups; we can discuss that scene later.

  25. 25
    Todd on 13 Sep 2015 #

    > “Rikrok gets the last word too, shutting down Shaggy’s dreadful advice – “you may think that you’re a player but you’re completely lost” – and leaving an odd hole in the song where you expect a third set of “It wasn’t me” refrains. But the older man’s top billing is no injustice.”

    I guarantee you that after the song Rikrok goes home and tries Shaggy’s advice on his girl anyway.

  26. 26
    Tommy Mack on 13 Sep 2015 #

    #25 It’s basically an episode of Peep Show isn’t it? Rikrok is Mark. Shaggy is Jeremy or maybe Super Hans.

    Steve @ 13, I gave ‘Sorry (I Didn’t Know)’ a spin. Sweet tune and a nice crisp beat. At first I took against Denzie’s whiny, nasally vocal but actually, he’s perfectly cast as the self-pitying emotional blackmailer: ‘I know I’ve done an awful thing so feel bloody sorry for me, OK?’

    A northern soul take on the same theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB_mW2HCh5g

  27. 27
    Tommy Mack on 14 Sep 2015 #

    Actually it’s clearly more like Men Behaving Badly though it’s more blurred who is Tony and who Gary.

  28. 28
    Steve Williams on 15 Sep 2015 #

    #19 I’m sure most people here will have seen the ultimate Crackerjack pop parody… https://youtu.be/n5LrRlR2Epo
    The thing is, Peter Glaze appears to genuinely like the song, if his lusty “yeeeaahhh!” is anything to go by.

    I remember Jo Whiley playing this on Radio 1 and inviting us to guess who the artist was, and then at the end saying “That’s actually the new single by Shaggy!”, as bemused as us by his return, I think, given that, as mentioned, his career was studded by enormous hits followed by long gaps of no hits at all.

    #3 The Divine Comedy are a brilliant band/artist who consistently produce excellent work and while I wouldn’t cite National Express as my favourite and you could take issue with some of the lyrics, I was just delighted they had a big hit and I think it’s a smashing piece of music. I really can’t bear Liz Kershaw on 6 Music but the worst thing she ever did was play a Divine Comedy record and say “I have to say, I really can’t stand The Divine Comedy” and then spend the rest of the show reading out e-mails from people saying “I agree, The Divine Comedy are rubbish”. Fuming, I was.

  29. 29
    Anton Blank on 16 Sep 2015 #

    #9
    an old movie which I am struggling to remember which had a scene where the woman arrives to find her man and another woman in bed, to which the man denies everything that is happening whilst both parties are getting dressed and the other woman leaves”

    Haven’t checked but it sounds like ‘School for Scoundrels’ starring Ian Carmichael and the indomitable Terry Thomas. I can definitely imagine a retrospective version of ‘It Wasn’t Me’ performed by those two. Terry T playing the Shaggy role of course.

  30. 30

    p sure no actual bedding occurs in school for scoundrels — which was made in 1960 and reflects this — but yes, the pre-permissive equivalent of exactly this does happen

    (it’s a not-bad dramatisation of the stephen potter gamesmanship books — which towards the end somewhat sentimentalises and re-moralises the amoral humour of the originals, but isn’t bad at all early on, with alistair sim superb as potter)

  31. 31
    Mark G on 16 Sep 2015 #

    Yep, that was the one. Thanks!

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