Sean Paul

The Trinity [Bonus CD]

(CD - VP/Atlantic #93532)

Review by

Sean Paul took the pop world by storm in 2003 with the release of the dancehall pop smash Dutty Rock, placing songs at the top of the charts, videos in heavy rotation, and his face all over the place. He took his time releasing the follow-up, 2005's Trinity, and rather than going even further pop, Paul heads toward a harder, more aggressive sound. The songs sound tailored for dancefloors with little concern for pop airplay and little concern for melody or hooks. This approach works for a song or two, but sooner rather than later the record begins to wear on the listener. Don't bother waiting for a song that isn't hyper-sexualized, tough, and semi-raw or a song that has some of the lightness and space of "Bubble," "Gimme the Light," or "I'm Still in Love with You," because you won't find it. Some of this may come from the shift in producers from big names with poppier backgrounds like Sly & Robbie, the Neptunes, and Steely & Clevie to lesser-knowns like Delano Thomas, Michael Jarrett, Craig Parks, and Donovan "Vendetta" Bennett who don't have much originality in their work. Each song relies on standard synth sounds and straightforward beats and there are precious few surprises on the record, sound-wise. Even Steven "Lenky" Marsden, the undisputed star producer on Dutty Rock, fails to do much with his songs on Trinity. Of course, blaming the producers for a lack of hooks and excitement is like blaming only the coach when a team goes in the tank; you have to lay a large portion at Paul's feet since he co-wrote all the songs, delivers the vocals, and has his name on the marquee. His vocals are strong enough but overall lack the freshness and vigor of those on Dutty Rock. It's almost as if he really isn't all that involved in the songs himself. In fact, sometimes he sounds like the endless come-ons to incredibly hot girls (all successful), tales of wild nights in the club, and name-dropping (his own) wear him out as much as it does the listener. It doesn't help the opening run of songs ("Head in the Zone," "We Be Burnin'," "Send It On," and "Ever Blazin'") have all the subtlety (and titles) of a hyperactive yet plodding workout mix, or that only a handful of the songs have even a glimmer of the spark that burned so brightly on Dutty Rock. Those few songs, like the bouncy "Head to Toe," the bouncier "Straight Up," the slick Nina Sky feature "Connection," and "Yardie Bone" (which has smooth vocals from Wayne Marshall, a much needed light production from Bennett, and is probably the best song on the album), aren't enough to lift the album out of its somber funk, and when the disc finally ends, there isn't much motivation to want to hear any of it again. Maybe it's too much to ask for Trinity to be as good and surprising and full of life as Dutty Rock; maybe it's unfair to ask Paul to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Probably so, but it's still disappointing for Trinity to be as empty and unenjoyable as it is. Maybe even slightly heartbreaking for anyone who really felt that Dutty Rock would be the first in a long series of great pop records Sean Paul would release. [The album was reissued in the summer of 2006 with the addition of a bonus disc containing collaborations with Carlos Santana and Joss Stone ("Cry Baby Cry") and Rihanna ("Break It Off"), a non-album track ("As Time Goes On"), and three songs ("Temperature," "Get Busy," and "Never Gonna Be the Same") recorded for an AOL Session.]

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