NEW YORK — Wayne Wonder isn’t complaining about how long it’s taken for him to achieve some measure of recognition by the masses; he’s just happy to be here.
“I just write a song and hope that everyone can appreciate it, no matter what color or what class,” Wonder, 30, said recently while visiting Manhattan.
Wonder’s songwriting, producing and smooth serenading have made him a staple in clubs for almost a year and have kept him on the Billboard chart for the past 14 weeks. His hit “No Letting Go” has bubbled from an underground sensation to crossover success.
“It’s just a personal experience,” he said. “I wrote this song [about a girl] without calling her name in the song because she always said to me, ‘You are always [calling] these other girls’ names.’ I said, ‘I don’t have to call your name, I’ll just write a song and you can appreciate it.’ Everybody loves it, which is surprising to me. When I’m writing, I don’t think [about whether the song] will be a big hit.”
The sexy swivels of Wayne’s curvaceous backup dancers and Little X shot-calling on set have helped the video for “No Letting Go,” the first release off of Wayne’s No Holding Back, become an airwave favorite as well.
“Well, the video, it took us 24 hours [to shoot],” he said about the production, which took place in December in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. “It was raining in the morning and the shoot was supposed to start at like 6:30 a.m. and it never really got started until about maybe 8 o’clock. God was on our side. We prayed on the rain, and the sunshine came out. X is so down-to-earth, and he just lets you feel a comfort level in what you’re doing. The video, to me, was a success; the dances, everyone enjoying themselves on the stage, there was no bad vibe.”
Although his spokesperson said that Wayne’s probable second single will be “Glad You Came My Way,” the singer’s vibe has him leaning toward “Friend Like Me.”
“My choice of single is ‘Friend Like Me’ [because] it’s real and personal for me,” Wonder explained. “It’s about [how] I met this girl and the vibe was so right. When I was leaving, she said she wanted me to pinky promise to always keep in touch with her. ‘All she needs is just a friend like me/ All she needs is a good friend.’ ”
Wonder, who was born Von Wayne Charles in Buff Bay, Jamaica, cultivated his craft by working with such good friends as famed reggae producer David Kelly in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s. Together Wayne and Kelly churned out hits in Jamaica like “I’m Only Human” and the dancehall classic “Saddest Day.”
“Saddest Day” became Wayne’s first big conduit to the U.S. when he sang on Foxy Brown’s remake on her Broken Silence LP in 2001. Luck followed Wayne when his friend Joel Chin, who is in A&R at VP Records, signed him last winter. VP, which also had another hot commodity on its hands at the time with Sean Paul, was in the process of inking a deal with Atlantic, giving the label an option to release certain artists via joint venture. VP and Atlantic became partners in January, and Wayne’s No Holding Back dropped in March.
“[It’s called] No Holding Back because I finally got the opportunity to just express myself,” Wonder explained. “My own creative freedom of doing this writing, producing, co-producing, arranging, so it’s no holding back. I’m just going to give it to you all.”