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Meaning of the song ‘Pon de Replay’ by ‘Rihanna’

Released: 2005

“Pon de Replay” embodies the spirit of the dancehall culture and the rap-infused energy that Rihanna brought to mainstream pop. The track is a call to the DJ, an invitation to lose yourself in the rhythm, and a celebration of dance as an all-out, communal experience. The Bajan Queen is inviting everyone on the dance floor and pushing that DJ to crank up the music.

The song kicks off with Rihanna making a direct appeal to the DJ, repeating the phrase, “Come, Mr. DJ, song pon de replay.” The term ‘Pon de replay’ is a blend of Patois and English, from Rihanna’s native Barbados, essentially meaning ‘Play the song again.’ The repetition of the phrase is an indication of the song’s recurring theme: the relentless, intoxicating energy of the club scene.

The line “All the gyal pon the dancefloor wantin’ some more what” is Rihanna giving an insight into the atmosphere in the club. ‘Gyal’ is Caribbean slang for women or girls. This is a joint request by all the females present — they can’t get enough and want more of the music.

“It goes one by one, even two by two / Everybody on the floor, let me show you how we do,” Rihanna beckons to everyone, not leaving anyone out, inviting them to witness and be part of the dancehall culture. On “Wind it up one time, wind it back once more”, the ‘wind it up’ phrase is a common term in dancehall literature, referring to the gyrating dance moves that are characteristic of the genre.

The chorus is then followed by the heart of the song which is a call and response convention, “If you ready to move say it (Yeah) / One time for your mind say it (Yeah, yeah).” This African-rooted tradition has been a staple in hip-hop and dancehall, a baiting mechanism to get the crowd more involved in the performance.

By the time we reach the lines “Hey, Mr. / Please, Mr. DJ / Tell me if you hear me / Turn the music up,” Rihanna is commanding, pleading, and almost begging the DJ to amplify the volume. It’s a testament to the power music has over us, and how essential it is as the backdrop of our revelries.

Finally, Rihanna ending with the line “Everybody get down if you feel me / Come and put your hands up to the ceiling” emphasizes the inclusivity that embodies the spirit of hip-hop and dancehall, and, at this point, every listener is a part of it, riding along with the rhythm and beats of “Pon de Replay”.

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