Jamaica’s OMI cartwheels to top of charts with ‘Cheerleader’

In this Tuesday, July 21, 2015 photo, Jamaican singer OMI poses for a portrait during an interview in Los Angeles. OMI may seem like an overnight success, but his chart-topping summer hit “Cheerleader” has been years in the making. The upbeat, ode to a supportive girlfriend recently rallied to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart following huge success abroad. (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamaican singer OMI may seem like an overnight success, but his chart-topping summer hit, “Cheerleader,” has been years in the making.

He started working on the reggae-pop song seven years ago. He released the track in 2012 under the Jamaican label, Oufah, but a 2014 remix of the song by German DJ Felix Jaehn helped give the tune new flavor — and new life.

The upbeat ode to a supportive girlfriend is spending its second week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a song,” OMI said in an interview Tuesday. “It was supposed to be like an interlude on the album.”

“Cheerleader” has sold 1.4 million tracks and has 108.9 million on-demand streams, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“Monumental is the word I can think of right now,” he said. “For an artist who is from a little island in the Caribbean, it means a lot. It’s a very proud moment.”

The 28-year-old, born Omar Samuel Pasley, is adjusting to his new-found fame in the U.S., recently holding up airport security lines as TSA agents clamored to take photos with him.

“Fan reactions are crazy sometimes. You know, like, ‘OMI, I love you! OMI, my lover!'” he mused.

Not to be derailed, he’s staying focused on his next single, due out in August, and first album, slated for the fall on Columbia Records.

“Fame is a distraction sometimes. You know, it’s a distraction if you let it. So it’s very important to stay focused, stay very connected to your roots,” he said.

The self-proclaimed “country boy” from the rural Jamaican parish of Clarendon credits his small town upbringing for keeping him grounded as his career skyrockets.

“We’ve seen many heroes from Jamaica, you know, and to be put in that class or to be looked upon on that level is overwhelming,” he said. “It’s pretty big shoes to fill, you know. I’m a size eight, but I’ll try my best.”





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