While NY Magazine‘s Vulture blog has taken the reins on plowing through 2008’s pop hits to find this summer’s “Umbrella” (finally proclaiming, not without some justification, Brit singer Estelle’s jaunty “American Boy” the winner), there’s a new UK Number One this week that has more come-from-behind cred and propulsive, sweaty dancefloor grooviness. Like Estelle’s hit, in which she joins forces with Kanye West (whose tongue-twisting, Britishism-mocking rap may be the best part of “Boy”), “Dance Wiv Me” is also an intriguing collaboration. In one corner, Dizzee Rascal, the 23-year-old rapper who has already proven his mettle as the greatest talent to emerge from the East London grime scene; in the other, Calvin Harris, whose ’80s-retro productions and winking, cocky vocal style have made him the new, tougher Mylo. Throw in UK soul singer Chrome for a couple lines and you’ve got a track that UK chart watcher James Masterson calls “three and a half minutes of three men having a whale of a time on a record that is fun, accessible and yet amazingly true to the musical roots of all three participants at the same time.” Hear hear.
The track hit #1 based entirely on downloads, and in an encouraging development, you can already buy it on iTunes here in the, er, States, where it’s currently lodged at #28 in the “Dance” section. While the song’s funky, not-too-fast beat is surely as accessible as they come, I’d give “Dance Wiv Me”‘s odds of becoming a hit in the US at about 100 to 1; even today, mainstream radio is deeply dance-phobic, and while Dizzee is trying harder than ever to make himself clear, 99% of Americans won’t understand a word he’s saying, instead hearing only three minutes of “bloppy blop blaw, inna bloppy blop blaw.” But while “American Boy” has the novelty factor of reminding Americans that there are other countries in the world who could potentially fetishize us (who knew?), it’s so sickly sweet that I can barely stand it: “Let’s ride the subway, take me to your hood/I’ve never been to Brooklyn and I’d like to see what’s good.” Eww! Plus, the video’s shots of supposedly-scrumptious examples of American boyhood gazing seductively at the camera actually just seem kind of creepy. “Dance Wiv Me”‘s Britishness is incomparably more authentic, and while that might make it a little tough to comprehend, it’s worth the effort.