Toppa Top ’16: The Best Dancehall Singles of 2016

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December 15, 2016

2. Rihanna feat. Drake, “Work”


A song written by a Jamaican (PartyNextDoor), co-produced by two more (Boi-1da and Sevn Thomas) and performed by the biggest Caribbean superstar since Bob Marley, Rihanna’s “Work” was the catalyst for the dancehall pop takeover of 2016. Justin Bieber’s tropical “Sorry” preceded “Work” both as a release and as a No. 1 single, but “Work” took the burgeoning trend in a more culturally authentic direction. Pulling from reggae/dancehall producer Richie Stephens’ 1998 Sail Away riddim, it set the tempo for later ‘90s dancehall rehashes from Tory Lanez (“LUV”) and Fifth Harmony (“All In My Head”), not to mention Fifth Harmony’s similarly-themed “Work From Home”. Rihanna and her team (including noted choreographer and dancehall specialist, Tanisha Scott) continued to strike the right notes, setting the “Work” video in a steamy bashment party inside Toronto’s The Real Jerk restaurant, and delivering a performance at MTV’s VMA Awards featuring even more dancehall flavor. And it got ‘nuff love in JA, too. —Jesse Serwer