Rockabye

Album: What Is Love? (2016)
Charted: 1 9

Songfacts®:

  • This dancehall song tells the story of a single mother trying to give her son a better life. It was released on October 21, 2016 and was Clean Bandit's first single as a trio following violinist Neil Milan's departure earlier in the week.
  • The song features vocals by Jamaican dancehall singer Sean Paul, who more than anyone has brought the genre to the masses, and British singer-songwriter Anne-Marie whose hit tune "Alarm" was in the charts at the time of this song's release.
  • The song was Clean Bandit's second UK #1 single following "Rather Be," which logged four weeks at the top. Their run at the summit stretched into the festive week, earning the group the highly coveted UK Christmas #1.
  • Clean Bandit's Grace Chatto explained to Billboard magazine why the mother Anne-Marie and Sean Paul sing about is a pole dancer: "The song is about doing anything you can to give your child a decent life, and what you have to sacrifice and go through with to do that. In the song and in the music video we made, the mother works as an exotic dancer in order to fund the life with her child."

    She added: "In the video, we did a take on it where we juxtaposed the mundane reality of being in a job you might not like, which is a theme we explore in a lot of our videos, and juxtaposed that with a kind of fantasy world with the joy that dancing can bring you. The mother character in the video that's spoken about in the song, you really don't know if she's fallen in love with pole dancing or if she's just living in a dream world."
  • Asked why the band chose such a specific subject matter, Chatto replied: "I'm not sure why we chose that, actually. I've always been interested in alternative family structures. Obviously, being a single mom is a very common structure. I'm actually kind of studying that kind of world the moment, because I think we grow up being taught to assume that there's one kind of family idea, but there are so many different ways you can do it."
  • The song topped the charts in around 20 countries, including Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. "I think it's kinda become more than the sum of its parts," Clean Bandit's Jack Patterson explained to ABC Radio regarding the track's success. "It's like, the contrast of the kind of uplifting, quite feelgood beat, Sean Paul's amazing kind of flow and energy, and then also with the message in the lyrics. I think that combination is quite unusual."
  • The song is based partly on "Rockabye Baby," perhaps the most famous nursery rhyme in the English language. The rhyme was first published in John Newbery's 1784 compilation of English rhymes, Mother Goose's Melody.
  • Clean Bandit's Jack Patterson co-wrote the song with Norwegian singer-songwriter and mother Ina Wroldsen. The Scandinavian tunesmith based the lyrics on her relationship with her son.

    "There was a version of this song, slight melancholy in melodies and also maybe lyrical themes - but with a quite uplifting rhythm track," Patterson told Genius. "Then we played that to Ina Wroldsen. She got into the emotional head space of a mum when she was writing the lyrics."
  • Clean Bandit have wanted to work with Sean Paul for a long time. "It was actually a condition when we signed our publishing deal that we wanted to be introduced to Sean Paul," Chatto told Q magazine laughing. "And it happened! We gave him a copy of our first EP, and since then we've just been waiting."
  • Jack Patterson told ABC Radio how Ina Wroldsen was able to make the lyrics ring so true.

    "When we wrote it, she put herself, I think in the place of a mother, with her real experience," he explained. "She's got a little boy, and I think she used her own emotional connection with her son to put herself in the right kind of emotional mindset."

    "She's not a single mum," he added. "Her husband's a joker, but he's still there!"
  • Asked by NME what it takes for her to collaborate with another artist, Anne-Marie replied: "I just listen to the song. It doesn't even matter to me who it is. If the song connects with me and is like a really great message, I love doing it."

    "When I heard 'Rockabye' I was just blown away," she continued. "It had been a long time since I had heard a song that had a message like that in it – about being a single parent and caring for your child. So, as soon as I heard it I just absolutely fell in love with it. We came to where I was and then recorded it. It was a really quick process."
  • The song was almost finished when Sean Paul came to the studio. Jack Patterson told Billboard how the Jamaican rapper wrote his rhymes about single moms in the booth. "It was like watching a stalactite grow: a little line, a little droplet; then it freezes, but it's malleable," Patterson recalled. "By the end, it's done, the song complete. That was amazing to watch."

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