A mediocre collection that focuses on quantity over quality.
Chantelle Fiddy 2009
Along with Red Stripe, Sean Paul is one of the few Jamaican exports you’d expect to find in a bar.
He’s the mum-friendly dancehall artist that your indie-loving flatmate wants to hear at a party. He’s the guy that made club reggae cool but no longer promotes excitement among, well, anyone this writer knows. And on this, his fourth studio album, there’s simply no let up of the pop fodder.
Despite claims a couple of years back that we could expect an array of diatribes on the issues and violence facing the youth of Jamaica, Imperial Blaze features more of the club hopefuls fans of Paul have come to expect. And, sadly, none of these come close to his classics from 2002’s breakthrough album Dutty Rock – the likes of Get Busy and Like Glue.
In fact, anyone who processes the more acceptable, older material may find themselves reeling as they realise the closest thing to Sean Paul in 2009 is the more-than-cringe-worthy Sean Kingston, best known for his number one single of 2007, Beautiful Girls. Check Paul’s track Pepperpot for evidence of this unexpected, and unwanted, parallel.
Efforts like Hold My Hand, featuring Keri Hilson, edge close to a more traditional reggae approach, as previously heard four years ago on third album The Trinity’s highlight, Never Gonna Be the Same. Decent production from Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor, Don Corleon and Jeremy Harding elevates a handful of tracks to a level appropriate for an artist of Paul’s profile. But while this collection’s first single, So Fine, has proved popular in provincial clubs, and She Want Me will have more than a few people busting bad dance moves, one comes away from the experience feeling that this 22-track album boasts quantity but little quality.
Something that could be said of Red Stripe, too: just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean you want to drink it, and while Paul’s tunes are reaching new highs of ubiquity they’re less welcome today, and a lot less interesting, than they seemed earlier in the man’s career.