SpongeBob Skank: N.E.R.D. Dip in the Caribbean with “Squeeze Me”

Words by EchoSlim and Marcha M. Johnson
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N.E.R.D.— producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, and their friend, Shea Haley—have just produced another fun-loving song for all ages. Much like Pharrell’s solo smash hit “Happy,” the lighthearted “Squeeze Me” will be the backdrop for a movie, The SpongeBob Movie, sure to do huge numbers at the box office. If the song itself has any similar success to “Happy,” expect it to take over the radio airwaves for 2015.

Unless you’ve been down there underwater in a bikini bottom with the lot, you probably know that Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Square Pants has been a cultural phenomenon for the last decade and a half. With an audience nearly as diverse as its cast of anthropomorphic sea creatures, it’s hardly a surprise the makers of the upcoming film would seek out the eclectic N.E.R.D.

We couldn’t help but notice that “Squeeze Me” has elements of what seems to be multiple genres of music from the West Indies. This development certainly wouldn’t be unusual, given the Neptunes’ history of (subtly) pulling Caribbean sounds into pop, hip-hop and R&B.

Instead of reggae or dancehall, though, we hear a bit of soca, or at least what soca sounded like in its early stages from the late 60s to early 70s, along with some elements of ska. Most noticeably, the track starts out with what sounds like a digital steel drum (most likely a Tenor Steel Pan), a simple progression of one note being played consistently throughout the track, like a four-on-the-floor vibe.

The arrangement of the pan is similar to the consistent hi-hats you hear in the arrangement of many early soca songs (like this one by the late, great Lord Kitchener). You can also hear a similar arrangement in many ska songs, although at a much faster tempo—see the Wailers classic, “Simmer Down” for example. Unlike most modern music, there’s no loud, insistent kick drum—instead N.E.R.D. add a noticeable deep bass, more like a sine bass than a kick— another feature that recalls early Caribbean music styles.

Enough of the analysis, though: This is a fun song, meant for Pharrell’s humorous, ebullient delivery, and the cheap-but-effective music video that debuted today. (In a sequence that only seems fitting, Pharrell, Chad and Shea’s headshots are transposed over some SquarePants into an animated sequence of circumstances not too far removed from a typical SpongeBob story line).

I could see a young Mighty Sparrow singing to this instrumental utilizing his notorious subliminal humor with that signature smile on his face. In fact, give any Trini a six-pack of Stag and cow bell, and they’ll have “Squeeze Me” sounding ready for the road.

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