Don't Kill the Magic

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Magic! scored one of 2014's biggest mid-year singles with "Rude," a bouncy piece of blue-eyed reggae-pop and old-fashioned storytelling that drew comparisons to '90s hitmakers like the Spin Doctors, Smash Mouth, and Sublime. However, the band didn't really resemble anyone else on the radio at the time of "Rude"'s release; considering that frontman Nasri was also once a part of the production team the Messengers, who wrote songs for pop stars ranging from Justin Bieber to Pitbull, it's not surprising that Magic! managed to craft a sound that was unique enough to get noticed and catchy enough to get hugely popular. There's a fine line between distinctive and annoying, however, and the band wobbles on either side of it on Don't Kill the Magic, where Nasri and company try to expand their hit's summery vibe into a full-length album. For every song that sounds like a sure-fire hit, there's another that sounds like the band is still figuring things out. Sometimes they lean on their reggae influences too much, as on the meandering "No Way No" and "Paradise" (which even begins with a "yeah, mon!"). Elsewhere, ballads like the limp "One Woman One Man" and "Let Your Hair Down"'s dorm-room seductions drag. Magic! also stumble when they stray too far from "Rude"'s good-natured charm: the somewhat preachy tone of "How Do You Want to Be Remembered" is all the stranger following the unconvincing tough-guy poses on the album's lone rocker, "Little Girl Big World." The band fares best on uptempo fare like "No Evil," "Stupid Me," and the soaring title track, all of which sound just as chart-friendly as Magic!'s big hit without rehashing it too much. With only a handful of songs that truly work, Don't Kill the Magic is an inconsistent debut, but with a song as big as "Rude," it hardly matters.

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