Well grounded: If the ancient tradition of reading coffee grounds means anything, Magic! frontman Nasri (born Nasri Atweh) has been destined for fame since childhood. At least, that's what his parents say. "Apparently, every time they had them read, it said one of their children was going to be famous," says the Palestinian-Canadian singer of Rude, which is No. 17 on USA TODAY's top 40 airplay chart. "Then this psychic looked at me when I was six months, a year old, and said, 'Your son will be famous one day.' I'm not famous yet, and it doesn't mean much to me, but I hear that story a lot these days."
'Rude' awakening: Rude, a pop-reggae song about a young man asking his girlfriend's father for permission to marry her — and getting soundly rejected — is approaching a half-million downloads in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. But the single, by a group of Canadians who got together in Los Angeles, was a hit in Canada, Australia and New Zealand before hitting the States. "That makes us pretty global, yeah," says Nasri. The group's debut album, Don't Kill the Magic, is slated for a July 1 release.
Magic! men: All four members of Magic! — Nasri, guitarist Mark Pelli, drummer Alex Tanas and bassist Ben Spivak — hail from the Toronto area. Nasri and Pelli met through a mutual friend; within a week, they had written Don't Judge Me for Chris Brown. A few weeks later, Nasri recalls, "Mark was playing guitar and started playing this kind of reggae groove. I said, 'Bro, I have this whole concept for a band, to do a like a modern-day Police. We should start a band.' " And they did.
Moves like Jagger: Nasri released a handful of solo singles in Canada a decade ago, then, with Adam Messinger, formed The Messengers, the songwriting and production duo that has worked with Justin Bieber, David Guetta and Iggy Azalea and on hits such as Don't Judge Me and Pitbull's Feel This Moment. He also trained as a dancer in New York, an education that comes in handy during Magic! shows. "I found this hybrid between Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, where there are some calculated dance moves but still just more movement in between them," he says.
The first cut is the deepest: Magic! had intended to put Cut Me Deep on its album, until Nasri played the tune for Shakira. "When I saw the glow in her eyes, I said, 'You're glowing for this song even more than I'm glowing for this song,' " he says. She included it on her latest Shakira album, using the instrumental tracks that Magic! had already recorded."We're getting so many of her fans because of it."
Groove thing: The reggae rhythms of Rude are present throughout Don't Kill the Magic, but think of the influence more as a starting point, not as a shtick. "The album is not all reggae, but we have a piece of it everywhere," Nasri says. "I don't see us staying in reggae forever. I see us evolving musically, because we didn't come from reggae. We're just going to make the music that comes out of us. Magic! has no boundaries."