A LOT IS riding on Sean Paul's third album, "The Trinity." After all, his second album, 2002's "Dutty Rock," sold 6 million copies, yielded four Top 15 pop singles and topped the reggae charts for 75 weeks. The easy thing would have been to recycle the formula that enabled his breakthrough: the collaborations with such American artists as Beyonce, Sasha, Rahzel, Busta Rhymes and the Neptunes. Instead Paul recorded all of "The Trinity" in his native Jamaica with the island's top dancehall producers (including Don Corleon, Steven "Lenky" Marsden, the Renaissance Crew and Jeremy Harding) and almost no American guests.
The results prove that dancehall reggae doesn't need outsiders to reach a worldwide audience. The new album's first single, "We Be Burnin'," is a Top 10 pop hit and is typical of the ridiculously infectious party music on "The Trinity." Paul (born Sean Paul Henriques) possesses a quick, agile tongue, rapidly spitting out syllables even as he negotiates the push-and-pull rhythms of the electronic dancehall beats, which are brisker than the typical hip-hop. Even as the syllables are rushing by, they're shaping sweet, catchy melodies not just on the choruses, as is the hip-hop custom, but on the verses as well.
There are a few nods at more serious topics, such as the elegy for dead friends on "Never Gonna Be the Same" and the rewrite of the Staples' "I'll Take You There." For the most part, though, "The Trinity" is all about driving, dancing and romancing, and Paul makes those pursuits seem so immensely pleasurable that listeners will want to join in with these songs as the soundtrack. The best bets for future hit singles are "Head in the Zone," "Send It On" and "Ever Blazin'."
-- Geoffrey Himes
Appearing Sunday at the 9:30 club.