The inside story of BRITs nominee Rema's Calm Down - the biggest global Afrobeats hit

The inside story of BRITs nominee Rema's Calm Down - the biggest global Afrobeats hit

Universal Music Group has just announced plans to acquire a majority stake in Mavin – the Nigerian label behind the global Afrobeats smash Calm Down by Rema. 

In the inaugural week of the US Afrobeats Songs Chart in 2022, Calm Down featuring Selena Gomez was No.1. The song has been a streaming smash in the UK (in partnership with Virgin Music), where it has chart sales of 1,566,945, according to the Official Charts Company.

Calm Down has gone on to become the biggest Afrobeats song of all time, the most viewed video of all time by an African artist on YouTube, and the first African artist-led track to surpass one billion Spotify streams. It has more than 1.8 billion Spotify streams across the original and the version with Selena Gomez.

Rema is performing at the BRITs this weekend and the single is nominated in the International Song Of The Year category.

Here, producer Andre Vibez tells us how the track came to life... 

I didn’t know Calm Down would be global, but I always knew it was going to be big. 

I also thought Rema had huge potential, after I first met him about 10 years ago in Benin City, where we’re both 

from. He was just starting off but I could see that he was really talented. We made music together for a couple of months and then I didn’t see him again until about 2019 or 2020, when he signed to Mavin Records

I’d been working at a radio station after relocating to Lagos – where I could network and get to know how the industry worked – before I got a job at Mavin as a sound engineer. When I started [at the label], I was connecting with artists and creating in the studio. I knew I’d see Rema but he didn’t know I was there, so one night I surprised him! We talked a lot and I watched him record, but we didn’t start working together straight away as he was on the road a lot. 

Then lockdown happened and we reconnected. He said we should just get in the studio and lock in, and that’s what we did. We then spent the next two weeks working together every day. To start with, it was just me playing beats for him, but that started to evolve. Sometimes I’d play a track, sometimes he’d have ideas, sometimes we’d make something from scratch. With Rema, you don’t have to play a full track, you can just have a melody and drums, and if he connects with it, you go from there. 

That’s what happened with Calm Down. I’d made the beat a few months before [playing it to him]. I work every day and normally I don’t get into the studio until about 10 or 11am, but on this particular day I just felt a nudge to start creating at around 8am. It took about an hour to come up with it, and then no one heard it until Rema did. 

He loved it straight away, he came up with the lyrics and melodies in the studio and I started recording everything. I would hear little pockets of ideas he had, and it sounded perfect. 

With Calm Down, the beat now is just like it was at the start, with little additions. The recording process was quick too, when we recorded, there were no mistakes, Rema just took multiple takes of the same thing and he chose his best delivery. 

It was all made in one day. That’s the thing with Rema, when he gets into the studio, his goal is to make sure he completes the song. He doesn’t want to leave it unfinished, because it’s always difficult to get back into it if you’re in a different creative space. I like that process too because my biggest songs have always been so fast. I think I only have one big song – Won Da Mo (2022) – that took a bit longer to make because there were so many artists on it [Rema, Ayra Starr, Bayanni, Boy Spyce, Crayon, Johnny Drille, Ladipoe, Magixx and Mavins]. 

The Selena Gomez remix came around six months later. Rema and Selena were already friends, and she was very down for it, so again it was all very seamless. Selena recorded her part with her team, who were very supportive, and we just had to take away a few things from the beat to [make space] for her verse. 

I think one of the factors that makes Calm Down what it is today is that when you listen to it, you just feel happy. It lifts your spirits and makes you want to move, and the lyrics are so catchy and repetitive with the ‘Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo...’ and the ‘Baby calm down’ parts. Even the rhyme schemes, with ‘She wear yellow’ 

and ‘This girl mellow’, make it so easy [to listen to]. If you don’t understand what Rema is singing about, you still hear certain words that stick to you and you want to sing along to them. 

I feel like the beat also did a lot in steering the song to the level it is. When I made it during Covid, I noticed that a lot of songs coming out were depressing or sad. Even me, I was making slow beats, everyone was in their feelings. So with Calm Down, I was just like, ‘You know what, I want to make something that makes you dance!’ I missed uptempo songs. 

Calm Down has done so much in bringing different cultures together. We’re Africans, we make our type of music, we’re breaking into the rest of the world – especially America – and now people are paying attention, there is a lot of interest in what we’re making. The song was at the top of the Indian charts and Rema even did a tour in India, which is so big! 

People dream of this stuff, but you don’t realise it could actually happen. When you really look at it, you realise that the kind of music we’re making can break barriers, it can open doors for other artists from Africa, and that’s what this song has done. That’s the beauty of what we do. 

There is a lot of support from the UK industry and we’re not in the same place as we were five years ago, but there can always be more. More artists are going to come out, do what we’re doing, and I think more records are going to be broken. That’s what I really want. 



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