Romain Virgo’s musical career began when, at 17, he became the youngest winner of Television Jamaica’s “Rising Stars” competition, an “American Idol”-style talent show. So it makes sense that the reggae artist’s new album, “The System,” includes some of the sort of uncomplicated material one would expect from a winner of a television talent contest — a cover of Adele’s “Don’t You Remember,” for instance. But what really defines the 22-year-old’s sophomore project is its abundance of striking political tracks — you won’t find Jordin Sparks or Scotty McCreery singing about income disparities, youth violence and the plight of the working poor.
The title track opens the album and sets the tone, with Virgo singing passionately about some of the ills plaguing his home country: hunger, job scarcity and rampant gun violence. On both “Minimum Wage” and “Another Day Another Dollar,” the singer equates low-income work to a form of modern-day slavery.
Virgo credits three things for keeping him away from the illegal activity and street life to which so many of his peers succumbed: his music; his mother, whom he thanks on the sweet ballad “Mama’s Song”; and his faith, which is expressed on “Not Today,” a big, inspirational, gospel-leaning track.
The second half of the “The System” finds Virgo focusing on love and romance — he won early fans by singing updated lovers’ rock — but album-closer “Press On,” a fast-moving dance-hall-tempo track about perseverance, ties everything together with Virgo’s sturdy voice motivating the heartbroken and the downtrodden to keep moving forward.
“Not Today,” “Minimum Wage,” “System”