wed 17/07/2019

Sean Paul, Indigo2 | reviews, news & interviews

Sean Paul, Indigo2

Sean Paul, Indigo2

Jamaica comes to London - via a quick slip on a dodgy last LP

Sean Paul: the face of accessible dancehall

Sean Paul, the accessible face of dancehall, is back. It’s been 10 years since he rose to the big league with his 2002 breakout album Dutty Rock, and he recently released his fifth album Tomahawk Technique. His mix of dancehall rhythms, bhangra beats and old-school reggae with boyband-cheesy lyrics gave him temporary pop pin-up status during the early 2000s. He brought dancehall to an international audience, and ended up having a huge influence on American hip-hop.

In the intervening years, Sean Paul admirably resisted the urge to Americanise his Jamaican dancehall stylings - until this latest LP, which saw him falling straight into the current chart trap of amped-up omni-anthems. Last night he seemed a star not entirely at ease with this division, choosing to tackle the contradictions with boundless stage presence. With a DJ, full live band and loud and forceful hypeman backing him, the show never stopped being compelling.

The new material received a less spontaneous reaction in a set of two halves

“Temperature” and “Get Busy” still sounded as ferocious as when they first came out, while the persistent, near-satanic call to arms on “Baby Boy” had the whole room moving. “Like Glue” took the audience straight back to the early 2000s, while the staggered time, forceful bass and bonus reverb on “Gimme The Light” were easy to fall straight into. But the new material received a less spontaneous reaction in a set of two halves; even recent hit “Got 2 Luv U” (a duet with Alexis Jordan) seemed to stall the energy built up in a strong opening section of early hits.

New song “Body” got too familiar with lowest-common-denominator dubstep, Sean Paul’s knack for a catchy chorus falling flat as a consequence. The instruction to “put your hands up in the air” felt like a huge insult to the crowd, following a previous string of songs commanding movement. “Hold On” pushed limits way too far, its Black Eyed Peas soundalike bridge taking his sound somewhere unnecessarily honest.

The top-heaviness of the song list became more and more frustrating as the night unfolded, through unnecessary genre fusions and pallid versions of what Sean Paul used to be. With his new direction he wants to challenge new producers to interpret the dancehall rhythm. It’s ultimately a losing battle. His old classics, however, are simply timeless. If the unnatural division between old and new in this set was anything to go by, Sean Paul is fully aware of this juxtaposition.

If it’s so hard to get involved with a chorus outwardly demanding your attention, it suggests its aims are wrongly placed

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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