Wyclef Jean prides himself on having a vision, which he does. Few of his peers are as determined to appeal to as broad an audience as a possible, dabbling in everything from ragga to sugary pop, tying it all together as a self-conscious "big statement." His ambition has been clear since The Score, if not the Fugees' debut, and with each of his post-Fugees solo projects, he's worked with the same basic template -- a lot of pop, a lot of hip-hop, reggae, and worldbeat touches, lots of social consciousness, a little does of party anthems, all produced with enough gloss and melody to reach a wide audience, yet with enough NPR sensibility to bring in the serious-minded progressives, no matter their age. If anything, he perhaps tipped a little bit too close to the pop last time around, letting Kenny Rogers in for a new version of "The Gambler," so the first part of his third album, Masquerade, feels like a bit of an overcorrection, as he toughens up the beats, brings in the hard(er) rappers, and aims to the street. Then, after the point has been made, it settles into a Marley-esque reggae groove, before easing into pop for a while, then winding up back in Marley territory with "War No More." Throughout it all, Jean's musical skill is impressive and most of this long, 20-track album is quite pleasurable, but his skills as a recordmaker waver on occasion. The primary problem is that Wyclef wants to be everything to all people, so he'll hit too hard on the hip-hop, then back way up and invite Tom Jones into the studio for a new, not very good, version of "What's New, Pussycat," while rewriting Frankie Valli ("Oh What a Night") and Dylan ("Knocking on Heaven's Door," which now contains shoutouts "to Biggie Smalls and 2Pac...to my people in the twin towers") with equal abandon. He pushes too hard on sermonizing, no matter if it's pompous pleas to the ghettos or heartfelt laments (a spoken tribute to his recently passed father, "War No More," a "Redemption Song"-styled protest song with the unforgettable line, "this looks like a scene from the movie Star Wars"), which offsets the lighter tracks. Instead of sounding generous and openhearted, it's a bit muddled and confusing, especially when taken all at once -- but when isolated in parts, or heard in passing, it's an enjoyable record.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine