'Rockabye': The Story Behind Clean Bandit & Sean Paul's Socially Conscious Dance Smash

Rita Zimmermann
Clean Bandit

Dancehall king Sean Paul returned to No. 1 on Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” in 2016, while British group Clean Bandit stormed America with 2014’s “Rather Be.” But Paul admits he didn’t think “Rockabye” would be a hit: “I loved the song, but wasn’t sure how far it would go.”

An ode to single mothers, “Rockabye” is “about doing anything you can to give your child a decent life,” says Clean Bandit’s Grace Chatto. Co-writer Ina Wroldsen penned the lyrics with her son in mind; its video follows an exotic dancer trying to make ends meet.

Anne-Marie enjoyed a U.K. hit in 2016 with “Alarm,” but most U.S. listeners are hearing her for the first time. The 25-year-old’s biggest thrill? Hearing Paul say her name at the start of the song. “I was going to set it as my ringtone,” she says.

“Rockabye” has 230 million Spotify streams since October 2016, and gives Clean Bandit its second top 40 hit. “People are hearing the message,” says Anne-Marie, “bigging up single moms, saying they’re doing a great job — and to keep going.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of Billboard.