Four years have passed since Jamaican hit maker Sean Paul lit up the dance floor with The Trinity, his third studio album which featured fiery tracks such as “We Be Burning,” “Ever Blazing” and peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The musical pyromaniac is back with a vengeance, and if his 4th album Imperial Blaze is any indication, he has no problem getting lightning to strike twice.
Paul’s summery vocals punctuate all 22 powerhouse tracks with an infectious energy that never wavers, even in the slower ballads such as the sentimental “Hold My Hand” and “Straight From My Heart,” which Paul penned for his mother. The album has an updated, techno-meets-caribbean feel, accentuated by the marriage of futuristic electric guitar chords and authoritative drum beats. Paul, who cites musical legends such as Bob Marley, The Beatles and Busta Rhymes as his influences, refuses to rely on star-powered guest appearances to drive his fourth effort – actually, he doesn’t need to. His spitfire rhymes and cocky, come-hither lyrics are sufficient enough to deliver on the album’s hottest tracks, which could easily serve as the pulsing heartbeat of the 2009 dance floor.
The first two singles, “So Fine” and “Press It Up” explode out of the speakers with an unmatchable energy characteristic of Paul’s earlier efforts including “Dutty Rock” and “Stage One.” “Evening Ride” is another highlight, set against a tinkling backdrop of xylophone keys, and the sweetly soulful “Now That I Got Your Love” is defined by a smooth, yet danceable melody. Paul’s one downfall would be that despite several standout singles, the sheer amount of tracks can make many of the beats run together, detracting from the originality and making several of the songs sound the same. That aside, the Imperial Blaze does exactly what it set out to do – set fire to the dance floor.
– By Chaka Cumberbatch