“Angel” looks like a momentum hit – a song carried along in its predecessor’s slipstream. It’s the weakest Shaggy song we meet, with none of the chutzpah or fun you’d expect from him. But three weeks at the top here and a Billboard #1 suggest this more reflective, romantic Shaggy won an audience in its own right. “Angel”, after all, is kit-built for wide appeal. It has the bassline from Steve Miller’s “The Joker”, the melody line from a much-recorded country standard, and Shaggy’s gruff toasting deployed – as on “It Wasn’t Me” – in brief, newcomer-friendly, patois-free bursts.
The smoothness of the blend does cloy – Rayvon is no help in that – and “Angel” is dancehall at its most diluted. Next to other crossovers of the time – like the arcade game soundscape of Beenie Man’s “Girls Dem Sugar” – “Angel” seems especially uninspired. But there’s a little more depth to it than I imagined. The theme is “Always On My Mind” rewritten for a hard-knock life, with Shaggy’s narrator thanking his long-suffering lady for standing by him through prison and bad behaviour. It’s the mirror of “It Wasn’t Me” – Shaggy as an ageing player again, but this time a repentant one. If he pulls it off at all, it’s because – just like on the earlier hit – he has the most forgiveable of voices, that lived-in baritone which can make this weak material listenable.