Shaggy / Sting

44/876

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Sting spent the entirety of his career studiously avoiding the appearance of having a good time, which is why his 2018 collaboration with reggae star Shaggy seemed so odd: at the age of 66, the rock star decided it was finally time to crack a smile. 44/876 -- a collaboration named after the phone codes for their respective home countries -- is most certainly a party record, albeit one that cooks at a low simmer as it swings between fleet-footed reggae sunsplash tunes and mellow grooves. If Sting seems subservient to Shaggy, that makes sense. Shaggy specializes in doing one thing well, while Sting took it as a point of pride that he could do anything from jazz to symphonies. While 44/876 has a few AAA moments -- "Waiting for the Break of Day" could've slid onto 2016's 57th & 9th without any incident, "22nd Street" oddly evokes memories of slick yacht-soul -- it's firmly a modern reggae album filtered through the perspective of a pop star who knows how to spin this music into something appealing to a wider audience. Consequently, 44/876 can have its cutesy moments -- such as the rampant Lewis Carroll references in "Just One Lifetime" -- and it also puts a slick gloss over every element of its reggae, but this suits a collaboration that's fueled in part by the showbiz status of the two participants. Shaggy and Sting might not first appear to be an ideal match, but they're both rooted in reggae and are both international stars, so they share a vernacular that helps turn 44/876 into a surprisingly enjoyable pan-international pop album.

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