Popcaan – Forever. 20th July 2018. Mixpak

It instinctively feels like Popcaan (real name Andrae Sutherland) has just recently clicked into top gear and has no intention of slowing down. Three years on from his mainstream breakthrough co-sign appearance on Jamie xx’s 2015 Song Of The Summer heavyweight ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ – although he’d been operating prominently in dancehall for half a decade before – he’s accrued a truly impressive and often scene-stealing roster of guest features, including Drake, Giggs, and Gorillaz. The charismatic, quavering timbre of his voice has become instantly recognisable, a dependable staple of prospective pop-crossover bangers. The Jamaican deejay is categorically one of the definitive figures in dancehall today and arguably one of pop’s most sought-after cameo artists, and Forever, his first album since 2014’s Where We Come From, represents his coronation record.

The Summer album is an elusive idea, but Forever comes as close as anything to embodying it. The weary synth and tittering steel drums on ‘Call Me,’ the numbed percussion thump on ‘Wine For Me,’ or the most muted bass you’ll ever hear on DaVido -featuring ‘Dun Rich’, collectively invoke the sweaty excitement, and sweaty melancholy, of this season, a virtual reality of tipsy deep meaningful conversations and dance floor sultry side-eyes. The guitar-licked romantic angst inculcated in ‘Foreign Love,’ its immediate follow-up ‘Body So Good,’ –the best of the advance singles – and 00s boyband ballad ‘Through The Storm,’ inject emotional stakes into the reminisces of hazy parties and gospels of positivistic Good Vibes, Popcaan’s exposed croon imploring an affecting vulnerability underneath the frenzy of dancing and sex; compounded by his moving retrospective on his career so far, ‘Lef My Gun.’

For all Forever’s incorrigible glee, it’s a grin which comes close to overstaying its welcome. At 57 minutes and 17 tracks without really shaking up its tempo or format, the tightly knit riddims and auto tuned lilts begin to seep into one another by its 15th, 16th, 17th track. There is some leeway available here, given streaming’s draconian statutes that more – cash-wise – is always better. There’s a conversation to be had about streaming’s financial model suppressing the artistic mode, but this isn’t the time and place; and while Forever’s digital marketing caveat is understandable, homogeneity is still a valid criticism.

Forever’s a pretty good record that’s six tracks-shorn away from being a great one, but when ‘Mi Love Yuh’s’ brazen breakbeats and earnest 808s kick in at midnight in Dalston’s least air-conditioned bar you’re having too much fun to care about album sequencing.

Buy: Popcaan – Forever