Sean Kingston: Sean Kingston

All in all, a pretty impressive debut for Sean Kingston, who I figured was just a weird pop robot.

Sean Kingston

Sean Kingston

Label: Epic
US Release Date: 2007-07-31
UK Release Date: 2007-08-06

Sean Kingston is a 17-year-old, Jamaican-American singer/songwriter who already has one canny #1 single, "Beautiful Girls", under his belt this year. This song, based on the riff from "Stand By Me," is disarming in its use of vocoder doo-wop and the repetition of the word "suicidal" in the chorus to describe his feelings over being dumped -- pretty edgy and successful for a first single that was composed and recorded in just a couple of hours, no?

It's easy to assume that "Beautiful Girls" would be the only good song on an album of filler; I assumed so, at least. But his second single, "Me Love", has done pretty well also, using the same formula -- except this time, substitute Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Maker" for "Stand By Me." It's a smooth move, using Zep's faux-reggae for a dancehall-synthpop jam...but surely that's all there is to this record, right?

The funny thing is, the answer to that question is "no". Sean Kingston is full of left turns, bold choices, and strange moments. The most striking moment is "Dry Your Eyes", a song in which Kingston tells his incarcerated mother to be brave while she does her time, and that he will do his best to make sure that they have a lot of money when she is released. This is based on a true story -- his sister is also in jail -- and, in an odd moment, I might have been emotionally touched by his wide-open declarations of love for his moms. Just saying.

"Kingston" is metallic hip-hop with a dancehall chorus and an aggressively paranoid vibe: "I see dem comin' from afar / Dey diss Sean Kingston, dem gonna get a scar" are pretty shocking lyrics if all you know about him are his poor-emo-me pop songs. "Drummer Boy" uses horror-show organ chords to back Kingston's boasts about leading some kind of slum-dwellers' revolution, although it's unclear what he's going to do with all his "soldiers." He also surprises with "Take You There", in which he romances a girl by bragging about his contacts in the Jamaican ghettos. (Well, I've used worse lines that have worked, so maybe dude is onto something.)

Even his more conventional pop croonings are notably weird. "Your Sister" is a classic teenage lament about liking two girls who happen to be related -- pretty standard stuff, except for all the bizarre electronic and vocal noises ping-pong-ing around the mix. In "That Ain't Right", he takes his girl to task for demanding his attention when he's trying to launch his music career. But all is forgiven in "There's Nothin'", where he uses tinny synth dollops and up-and-comer girl singer Paula DeAnda to talk about perfect sunny la-la teenage love; the messed-up thing here is the lack of edge.

All in all, a pretty impressive debut for Sean Kingston, who I figured was just a weird pop robot. Keep the rough edges unsanded, kid, and make a lot of money so you can throw your mom one hell of a come-home party.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.