Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Dancehall and romance - Flirting with the dancehall approach on Valentine’s Day

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:00 AM

It may be a practice as old as time – flirting and courting a women using poetry that samples the lyrics of popular songs.

In Jamaica, some men have employed the lyrics of dancehall songs. Even if the genre is not someone’s first pick, there are songs that exist from old school, like Patra’s Romantic Call and Lady Saw’s Love Sick, to new school dancehall from hardcore entertainers such as Alkaline, whose Fine Whine lyrics includes “the love me have fi you could last a lifetime” – for the most part it speaks about love and not simply sexual desire.

In truth and in fact, the lyricisms of dancehall songs and romance are not so far off the love radar in local culture. The dancehall recording artistes have to literally charm their way into your playlist, hold the audience’s attention, and create a relationship with the listeners – and many of the hitmakers have managed to do so time and again.

According to Professor Donna Hope (specialising in the area of culture, gender and society), most hardcore male dancehall artistes have a song or two that courts women. “By focusing on their sexual prowess as men, and promising a woman how they will ‘handle the ride’ or ‘mash a works’ or a related term; that in itself is a form of courtship. And many talk about love directly,” Professor Hope explained.

She notes that within dancehall, the impact of singjays must not be forgotten – like Ghost who has a track record of delivering serious love songs “inna di dancehall”. The ’90s generation entertainer has a fairly recognisable catalogue of dancehall covers of R&B hits, and his original, Love You, is particularly special and carries deep feelings.

“I have always loved Mad Cobra’s song Flex, the rhythm was very sensual and suggested high romance, leading to the ultimate pleasure. Mavado has put down a lot of sensual and romantic songs – Come into My Room featuring Stacious is a good one, and I loved his 2017 single Night Falls,” she said. “Artistes like Vybz Kartel have had their lyrical turns, for example, with his song Love Yuh Enuh, and General B has a 2018 song, Bubble, which is another good example of an artiste expressing romantic feelings and mixing it with sensual hardcore pleasure. And there are so many more.”


Dancehall lyrics are oftentimes labelled as lewd or aggressive and the perspective overshadows dancehall as an all-inclusive genre. Professor Hope shares that the opposite sex has attempted to, as Jamaicans say, “lyrics” her with dancehall songs which, instead of taking offence at the approach, she usually finds it rather forward and a bit funny.

She added, “Dancehall does have a romantic side, but it often comes across as more focused on sex because of the way the lyrics are delivered, yet dancehall in general also focuses a lot on people and their relationships.”

Two-time Grammy Awards winner Shaggy did start as a deejay, saying, “I am a lyrical lover no take me fi no filth” in Mr Bombastic. The Mr Lover Lover of dancehall wooed many of his followers with that track, said Renaissance Disco DJ Romeo. “In a party it all depends on the audience, but songs of recording artistes from that generation (like Shaggy), for example, Bounty Killer’s It’s Ok, have the potential to bring a man and a woman close to share a romantic moment, as the song says, ‘with champagne and candlelight’.”

With and without the heavy bass or fast rhythms to express romantic emotions, once properly selected they can heat up more than the street dances that people are accustomed to.

Have you ever used the lyrics of a dancehall song to woo the opposite sex? Will you be using one this Valentine’s Day?