e is not the best DJ in Jamaica.
He doesn’t have to be; Sean Paul’s real gift is melody. He makes up for lyrical shortcomings with utterly smooth refrains. The cultural gulf separating the U.S. from Jamaica magnifies rather than diminishes his melodic charisma, for audiences whose familiarity with dancehall is more Nina Sky than Bounty Killer. The Trinity, Sean Paul’s third album (second since his American breakthrough) is his best. It is also one of the best LPs released anywhere this year.
The album art is all business; Sean Paul stands stoically against a dark backdrop, eyeing the camera, braids immaculately draped behind his head, tumbling down his back. On the flipside, he stands tall, solemn. Although his body faces the sea, his eyes peer straight down towards, presumably, Jamaican soil. Although he was one of the few Jamaican artists to achieve massive crossover success in the United States (thanks to his hits “Gimme the Light,” “Get Busy,” “Like Glue,” and “I’m Still in Love with You,” never mind the breezy beach anthem “Baby Boy” with Beyonce Knowles), The Trinity burrows further into the streets of Jamaica and utilizes all-Jamaican rhythms.
Sean Paul was smart to focus on his melodic strengths over the best rhythms Jamaica has to offer. Although this may not be a runaway smash like his last album—there is less surprise in this tuneful incarnation of Jamaican summer jams than there was the first time around—the tightened focus makes this a more consistent release. Over the Masterpiece rhythm, Paul proclaims that his love for a woman his “ever blazing.” He increases the heat further on “Temperature” over the applause rhythm. “My main aim is to stay sane / I never did like an’ I never did love fame,” Sean Paul opines on the title track, the breathless statement of purpose that closes the album. On The Trinity, Sean Paul’s buttery flow is a sublime musical element all its own.
Jamaican music struck a sobering tone in 2005. One of the most violent summers in the nation’s recent history inspired songs like Damien Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” and T.O.K.’s “Footprints,” over the Drop Leaf rhythm, successful attempts to come to terms with the urban chaos that seemed to be ripping its people apart. Sean Paul’s contribution in this vein, “Never Gonna Be The Same,” is a tribute to his friend Daddigon, who was murdered in Kingston earlier this year. Although it’s not a massive success on par with the bigger conscious anthems of the year, it is an effective, personal and surprisingly heartfelt ballad.
Nevertheless, his strength is still on the dancefloor, and he knows it: “5 million and forty top cuties / Dem be shakin’ up dem booties / Dat is how di dutty sell di units.” Sean Paul is a gifted songbird, and on The Trinity his vocal gifts and Jamaica’s continued creative vitality are a surefire formula for thrilling music.
Reviewed by: David Drake
Reviewed on: 2005-10-07