Certain albums make you wonder why you ever liked music in the first place. Sean Paul’s Imperial Blaze is music to listen to while curled up in the fetal position, shaking and trembling in horror.
Paul’s gibberish spewing flow is the only connection between songs on this enormous, 75-minute album that goes on for about 40 minutes too long, if it had to exist in the first place. On opener “Lace It”, Paul says a whole lot of words — all of them annoying and impossible to understand — while some ridiculous late ’90s synthesizers sound off in the background. It sets the template for a disastrous amount of truly awful music. No, Paul has never tried to be Keats or anything, but here, even with his mindless club anthems, his phrasing is exhausting to listen to. Metaphors like “You be my wind chime”, from “So Fine”, are so wretched, they seem to signify nothing less than the death of language. All the while Paul just mumbles, fitting so many repulsive, superfluous images into each verse, it’s difficult to make it through a single song.
As bad as the words and performances are, the disorganized, inconsistent, mind-numbingly boring production is even worse. “Don’t Tease Me”, a lowly derision of a cock-tease, employs dramatic fake strings (which really do sound like a synthesizer set to sound like strings) in an attempt to create a kind of theatricality as Paul’s insufferable croon spews garbage out of the speakers: “If you want it don’t tease me… Don’t let my energy waste”. Needless to say, it doesn’t work, and sounds more like an 11-year-old experimenting with the sound settings on his first keyboard.
Even approaching this album with low expectations produces a disappointing listen. The audacity, the immaturity contained on Imperial Blaze is enough to hang a dark cloud over music, if only for an hour as the album lulls needlessly along. Over the course of a disgusting 20 songs, Paul attempts to make “birthday suit” a sexy seduction, brags about how he’s going to “bring the pain” in the bedroom, and generally rapes his listeners with a perpetual objectification of the female gender, treating women as mere surrogate vaginas. That’s not to mention his incessant characterization of men as nothing more than walking, rapping erections. Of course, misogyny in club music is commonplace, and Paul could get away with some degree of male-gaze clichés if he were a better writer, if his performances didn’t sound so detached, if he could organize one single thought into a coherent expression. Yet there is no talent in these songs. Paul has the impudence to slow things down, like on “Hold My Hand”, to tell his inhuman sexual object, “Girl, you know I care”, following it up with “Yo, yo, yo, I ride there”. In the same breath, Paul attempts to characterize his sensitive side, itself cold and narcissistic, only to crush this image under the weight of his sleaziness.
All the while, a robotic, derivative, rhythm-less beat plays in the background, with all the meaningless components of filth: fake wind chimes, buzzing keyboards circa 2003, and wholly synthetic, embarrassing drum samples. There is nothing redemptive here. It makes you feel gross, unsexy, and ultimately bad about yourself. Listening to Imperial Blaze is the equivalent of getting hit on by a fat, drunk, 45-year-old in a dark, nameless bar, while old alcoholic men cough up the black tar in their lungs onto the electronic gambling machines that they use as their last glimmer of hope. And to be honest, there is no hope, not even a false hope, for this music. This is the worst album of 2009.