Sean Paul – ‘Scorcha’ review: pop-accented bops from the Godfather of Dancehall

The veteran enlists Gwen Stefani, Damian Marley and more as he shows off his range by touching on music that springs from every parish in Jamaica

Who has had a musical run in dancehall like Sean Paul‘s? Not many. Sure: there’ve been massive crossover stars like Spice, Lady Saw and Shaggy, who’ve been waving the flag forever. And younger rising global stars including Jada Kingdom and Shenseea (who both feature on this album, proving Paul’s finger is still on the pulse) are the fresh blood on the scene.

However, Sean Paul has not left the limelight for more than two decades and his latest album, ‘Scorcha’, shows why. Whether we fall in love with throwback tunes that echo his first Billboard chart-topper, 2003’s ‘Get Busy’, when he sang about “Jodi and Rebecca”, he keeps giving us smashes – even if they lack his original dancehall flavour.

For his eighth album, the Kingston deejay plays around with all forms of dancehall and reggae music, inviting a bunch of friends along the way. Yet, despite his ability to create sticky melodies, ‘Scorcha’’s guests don’t always live up to the standards of the Kingston star. On the lovers rock-inspired ‘Light My Fire’, ex-No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani lays some vocals for the song’s hook, but doesn’t sound as effortless as she did, for example, on her old band’s reggae-fusion track ‘Underneath It All’.

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Yet there are a bunch of amazing collaborators who knew what to do over these dancehall-infused songs. ‘Scorcha’’s lead single, ‘How We Do It’ featuring the sweetly-voiced Pia Mia, is a fun, radio-friendly track that’ll have you shimming in the car. More authentic is ‘Bouncing’ featuring Jamaica’s Jada Kingdom. With Paul’s simple yet effective lyrics (“Girl, you’re hot in it… The way you’re kotching it, mi well wah trap in it”), it’s flirty and cheeky.

The last track, ‘No Fear’ featuring American-Latino Nicky Jam and integral dancehall royalty Damian Marley, harks back to Paul’s 2002 album ‘Dutty Rock’, which saw him experiment with reggaeton. The track features some of his most poetic lines, as he steps away from dancehall’s salaciousness: “Tings an’ times will tell, so you haffi learn your lessons well / Some man live in ah mansion and dem ah get pension while some living in hell”.

If Beenie Man is considered the King of dancehall, then Sean Paul should be respected as the Godfather. Since his inception in 2000, he has made dancehall accessible to all, climbing up the charts internationally with seminal hits like ‘Gimme The Light’ and the aforementioned ‘Get Busy’. And with ‘Scorcha’, he proves his hitmaking skills and why he still is the pioneer of island pop.

Details

Release date: May 27
Record label: Island Records

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