November 7, 2009 / 12:57 AM / 10 years ago

Young island-pop singer Iyaz hits "Replay"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - The emerging genre of “island pop” has enjoyed recent success with the music of Sean Kingston and Jason DeRulo, and now 22-year-old recording artist Iyaz has landed a hit single in the genre.

“Replay,” a light and catchy tune with a soaring hook, is No. 13 on the current Billboard Hot 100. It has become the Iyaz’s introduction to U.S. audiences, although it wasn’t intended to be.

“We weren’t looking for a single. ‘Replay’ was supposed to be one of the album tracks we were banging out,” Iyaz says of the J.R. Rotem-produced song. “But it had a killer melody, and I knew I could put some crazy harmonies on it. It turned out to be one of my best songs.”

Iyaz (born Keidran Jones) grew up in the British Virgin Islands. His father toured with singing groups and his mother directed church choirs. While studying digital recording in college, he recorded the track “Island Girls,” which became a radio staple in the Caribbean Islands and caught Kingston’s attention.

“Sean hit me up on MySpace, but I didn’t believe it was him. I ignored him for a few days and even gave him a fake phone number,” Iyaz says.

Kingston persisted until Iyaz realized it was indeed the hit singer-songwriter, and soon the two pop vocalists were talking music and becoming fast friends at Kingston’s house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Within weeks of meeting Kingston, Iyaz inked a deal with the Time Is Money/Beluga Heights imprint on Warner Bros. Records. He is working with Rotem, who produced Kingston’s hits “Beautiful Girls” and “Take You There,” on a debut album that will expand the infectious Caribbean sound known as island pop.

“If you listen to ‘Replay,’ it has so many elements going on that you don’t know what will happen next, and that’s what we want to do with this music,” he says. “Everything starts off small, but we just hope to move forward with this sound.”

Iyaz plans to release a second single early next year, with his debut album tentatively set for a second-quarter bow. The singer plans to keep recording and performing at various U.S. events through mid-December as the popularity of “Replay” continues to grow.

“I’ve had to record while visiting three states in one day,” Iyaz says. “It sounds busy, but busy is the best way to be in the music business.”

Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters

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