Sean Paul – “Like Glue”

Released: 7.1.03

Peak: #13

Foxy as he might have been, Sean Paul was a curious crossover star. If all you knew of dancehall was Dutty Rock you might be forgiven for suspecting that Jamaica’s biggest export was nothing more than awkwardly sung R&B. To say that Sean sings flat is unfair to him and to a style where strict melodic accuracy takes backseat to a commanding vocal tone. And fortunately for him, the melodic rap style that 50 Cent and Aftermath were pushing ensured that hip-hop itself increasingly resembled awkwardly sung R&B.

At first, Sean Paul seemed manhood’s answer to Ashanti, doin’ his ting on duets with Beyonce and Blu Cantrell and fated to life on the wrong side of the “feat.” But pop events had conspired to make a genuine dancehall star inevitable. The music landed beat-first in the U.S., with Timbaland and the Neptunes plundering its tricks to give R&B a global electronic sheen, but it was too late for relative old-timers to capitalize. The appeal of Shaggy’s comic novelty had expired, and if Beenie Man was destined for full-fledged chart success we’d have known by now.

And so, Sean Paul. “Gimme the Light” was a lively weed-blazing anthem, and “Get Busy” integrates the ubiquitous Diwalli riddim (which we’ll return to soon enough) into a more conventional R&B track. But “Like Glue” captures his ragged charm most vividly. It’s more sing-song than Sean’s other hits, allowing for more wobbly vocal movement and pidgin lyrics I can barely grok. The most valuable sound effect is that scratchy organ that comes in, though where would he be without those electronic lip-farts? Wherever Ashanti is these day, I suppose.

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