Popcaan – ‘Forever’ review

The Jamaican dancehall star returns with an immensely likeable crossover album that pulses with positivity

There are some people you just root for. Jamaican dancehall star Popcaan – aka Andrae Sutherland – trades on an eminent likeability that has drawn the likes of Drake (on ‘Controlla‘), Pusha T (‘Blocka‘), Gorillaz (‘Let Me Out’), Jamie xx (‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times))’ and London rapper Stefflon Don (‘Hurtin’ Me‘) to his optimistic aura. Ever since 2010’s breakthrough bop ‘Clarks’, he’s been touted as Sean Paul’s natural successor, a star with the charisma and pop chops to make dancehall a viable commercial force in America.

2014 debut ‘Where We Come From’ was hailed an exemplar of the genre in that it championed Sutherland’s cultural roots while succeeding, divorced of context, as an infectious, hook-laden pop record. He repeats the trick with ‘Forever’, which boasts a universal, joyous sentiment for each and every stuttering, staccato beat and sun-kissed synth melody. On the shimmering ‘Strong Woman’, Popcaan cheerily rides an offbeat as xylophone notes march in the background, the arrangement as winningly simple as the message: “You stronger than Sylvester Stallone… You motivate the two of us.” If you can hear that track without cracking a smile, please immediately book a flight to somewhere chill.

Album highlight ‘Body So Good’, released as a single in May, should have set the world alight: the track effortlessly melds lilting guitar with an immediate, half-cut, undulating chorus and quotable lines (“Baby, you rude and cute like Ri-RI”) with thrilling verve and confidence. If there’s one composition that sums up Popcaan’s modus operandi, it’s the buoyant ‘Happy Now’. “Me wanna see everybody happy now, he grins over a lazy, hazy, rolling beat – and you won’t doubt him. It’s unembarrassed, unabashed in its mission to raise you up.

Last year, Popcaan told Red Bull Music Academy: “A lot of people still tell me that my music take them through a lot of rough times, because me share my experience and my friends’ experience through my music with other people and them can relate to that story. It just keep them up when me tell them, say, ‘OK, I’ll make it, make it same way.'” Sutherland’s taken dancehall to the American mainstream, but, with ‘Forever’, he also transports us to a better world – where positivity reigns.