Sean Paul – Scorcha

by Jul 20, 2022Artist, Reviews

Sean Paul - Scorcha

Release Info

Island Records
Street date
May 27, 2022
Website Artist

01. As We Enter
02. Wine Up
03. Scorcha (Hot Peppa Mix)
04. Only Fanz feat. Ty Dolla $ign
05. Earthquake
06. How We Do It feat. Pia Mia
07. Bouncing feat. Jada Kingdom
08. Dynamite feat. Sia
09. Light My Fire feat. Gwen Stefani & Shenseea
10. Calling On Me feat. Tove Lo
11. Good Day
12. Borrowed Time
13. Pon Di Reel feat. Stylo G
14. Back It Up Deh (Remix)
15. Bend You Back (6:30 Mix)
16. No Fear feat. Damian Marley & Nicky Jam
New Normal: A review of Scorcha by Sean Paul

Scorcha becomes Sean Paul’s eighth studio set to date and it is the one I’ve looked forward to more than any other in quite some time (again, given his most recent performance). Following a long and productive relationship with VP and Atlantic Records, Sean Paul would take on Live N Livin by himself on his own, Dutty Rock Productions, but in this latest project, he goes with another major, this time linking with Island Records and is executively produced by Paul’s brother, Jigzagula. Looking back, Sean Paul’s albums tend to go in either one of two different directions. The first is that they’ll be like Stage One, The Trinity and Live N Livin (and, Dutty Rock to a lesser degree to be fair) and be largely Dancehall experiences. It’s what he does best, in my opinion and, though it may be difficult (for others, not for me) to overlook the other things, Sean Paul, purely as a Dancehall artist, is one of the best we’ve seen to date in my opinion.

The other way his albums tend to go is the course that we’ve seen him explore on Imperial Blaze and the likes as something either incorporating so many different styles, centering around Dancehall (or some highly enthused version of it) or just something else entirely. So where on that scale does Scorcha register?? To its credit, for the vast majority of its fifteen tracks spread across nearly forty-nine minutes, Scorcha is a Dancehall album (for the most part) (in a kinda/sorta way) (basically). It does give an obvious international lean in the form of the sheer number of collaborations it features (although that is a trait which is becoming increasingly normal in Reggae music. The image of looking at Hip-Hop albums LOADED with combinations is forever etched in my head so every time I see it, that’s automatically what comes to mind) (and that isn’t a bad thing, inherently, pretty much every damn song on Live N Livin was a combination), as well in the particular artists who’re involved and the prevailing sound isn’t rigidly Dancehall yet, as I said, it is a Dancehall album, primarily, in my opinion.
When I figured out what to expect from Scorcha my expectations heightened because of its most immediate predecessor and although it doesn’t approach those lofty heights, by its end, it does prove to be a very FUN and colourful display from one of the greatest to ever do it. Following our intro, As We Enter (which may or may not feature Jigzagula, just like he opened Stage One if I recall correctly), the first full tune on Scorcha get things started in a direction from which the next fourteen rarely stray. Wine Up features production from both Di Genius and Supa Dups which might let you know (especially when you consider the song’s name) what they were going for here. Wine Up is infectious, it will get something on you moving, it also has its clever moments [“This mornin, right back to evenin – give her di stormin and mek she start grin”] and it’s harmless. You will encounter several like it throughout Scorcha.
Another example of that would be the album’s next and title track. Scorcha comes via our old friends at Chimney Records and is probably one of the best songs on the release named after it. Do something for me on this one: If you can, even if you don’t give a damn, focus STRICTLY on what Sean Paul says on Scorcha. If you do that, no, you won’t have an epiphany. You won’t hear angels and shit or suddenly realize your purpose in life, but you will gain an appreciation for just how lyrically proficient Sean Paul can be, even still. Listening to it superficially, Scorcha is still solid. It’s a nice Dancehall tune, but he does little things in his wording or in his delivery, taking things to another level of quality (and the riddim on that thing, billed as the Hot Peppa Mix, is ridiculous! It is lovely).
We get four tracks deep into Scorcha before coming to its first combination, Only Fanz. US based vocalist, Ty Dolla $ign (whose name I’ve seen before, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him before), guests and makes a fine first impression for me. Coming in with a bit of a different vibes from the pair ahead of it, Only Fanz is a nice SLIGHT change of pace and, again, features a stretch or two of damn impressive wordplay. If you enjoyed the little stroll that Only Fanz took you on, then perhaps you’ll LOVE what happens on Earthquake. I don’t even know how to describe the vibes on the Banx & Ranx licked tune. Whatever it is, it works! If you haven’t moved a muscle from the start of the album (you are COMPLETELY deaf) Earthquake will likely do the trick for you.

Banx & Ranx have been long collaborators with Paul and they helm a number of tunes on Scorcha including the one I just told you about and the next one as well…… album single, How We Do It featuring Guamanian singer Pia Mia, who I’d never heard of. Mia actually has a pretty nice voice and she compliments Sean Paul very well. It maybe highly unlikely that I run back into her work again, but if/when it did happen, I wouldn’t expect it to be a bad thing. How We Do It is…. innocuous. It has a a nice kind of R&Bish vibes to it and it’s just an attractive song – making it a rather obvious selection when considering singles, I’m sure [“More women, we keep on winning. Mi tell yuh this again: Not one fuck wi giving”].

How We Do It is the first of five consecutive combinations on Scorcha and next is definitely one of my favourites as Paul and co. tap the always very interesting Jada Kingdom for Bouncing. It took a minute or two because of what I’m going to call a ‘curious’ sound, but Bouncing did ultimately win me over. There’s just something very COOL about this song and I can’t quite put it into words properly. It doesn’t overdo itself or wear the listener out at all. Instead, you find a very nice and colourful, but laidback groove in the middle of it and I latched onto it and I’m still a little hooked.

Take that and compare it to Dynamite which follows it and you have something almost entirely different. Though not downright exhaustive, Dynamite which features the big voiced Australian, Sia, comes in with this giant vibes and doesn’t really take a step back either. I don’t love this one, although I do appreciate it musically (another Banx & Ranx production) but I see Dynamite as that song, years from now, that I look back on Scorcha and am surprised that it was on that album (and it could be worse… you pick up Imperial Blaze and see).

Not too dissimilar from Dynamite (though considerably stronger) is Calling On Me, with Swedish singer Tove Lo. This song has flames, but it also lets you chill just a little, but in either situation it has a sweetness to it. It also comes with a hair of substance. There is a message here about depending on others and being a dependable person yourself and for an album un-brimming with themes (and that isn’t a critique, it’s Dancehall. It doesn’t have to save the world), it comes in as a very welcomed moment.
By far the most attractive — on paper — combination on the middle of the album and you could make the case on the entire set is the easy Reggae-fied Light My Fire which pulls in burgeoning superstar, the ultra talented Shenseea and longtime US Reggae head, Gwen Stefani (in terms of start power, there’s one other name who can give them a run, but with both of them, yes, Light My Fire is the most loaded). Shenseea returns the favour Sean Paul paid her on her own 2022 release, ALPHA, from back in March and, just as he did for her, she provides Sean Paul with one of the finest songs on his album as well.

Light My Fire is DELIGHTFUL. It is such a nice piece to listen to and, given the trio, I suppose they couldn’t have truly screwed this one up even if they tried to. If you listen to Reggae to pretty much any extent, you’ve surely ran into Stefani in one way or another and I’ve always appreciated that, even from her musical nascence in No Doubt, she’s well made it known her affection for the genre (she has a kid named Kingston and another one middle-named Nesta) and she’s tangibly demonstrated several times over the years – very few times has it sounded better than it does here. For her part, if I’m still writing about Reggae in a quarter century or so, I’ll probably be writing a review very similar to this one about Shenseea. That young woman has a devastating skill with the spoken word and, even amongst two card-carrying legends, she more than holds her own. I would presume this track would receive a push at some point and if/when that happens, I’d also presume it’d be a sizable hit from Scorcha.

Baby a long time mi deh yah, come gimme wah mi desire
Beat it wid di wire, mek mi sing out like di choir
Come yah Sean, come gimme likkle light
Spark it up cah mi need likkle fyah inna mi life
What a long time mi nah get fi si yuh
Panty wetter than di wata weh inna di Rio
Take mi high up, like a mi ah meet Jesus
Come one, then two, then three up
The remaining two collaborations, Pon Di Reel and No Fear are very interesting as well in their own ways. Stylo G makes an appearance on the former which is all kinds of fun. I don’t particularly enjoy Stylo G’s verse on the tune (it isn’t bad, it’s just kind of awkward) but I have liked what I’ve heard from him in the past (I hate to say it but he kind of reminds you of Gappy Ranks) and what he does do doesn’t take away from one of the best times to be had on the whole of Scorcha in my opinion. Let me cut it in right here because the moment is right for it: Speaking of goodtimes, check the tune immediately following Pon Di Reel, a [very similar sounding to my ears] remix of previous single Back It Up Deh.
Were we in a different time and Sean Paul hadn’t yet made his big international splash (and maybe the featuring artists didn’t have as much name value as they do), I would probably listen to this album and come away thinking that the most likely Dancehall hit present was Back It Up Deh. It’s pretty damn excellent for what it is. Also, I want to mention the fact that despite the fact that it doesn’t feature Sean Paul at his lyrically precise best (the chorus does), what does come as a freestyle in Back It Up Deh, is going to be comparable to the A game of a few of Paul’s peers – even gifted ones. Just a fine performance and if you find none greater on Scorcha, I’m okay with that.

While I’m at it, there’s also the 6:30 Mix (also sounds like the original to me, but what the hell do I know) of the TJ Records produced Bend You Back. Take most of what I said about Back It Up Deh and slide it over to Bend You Back because nearly all of it applies. This song, however, does feature a more pinpointed Seah Paul across TJ’s mesmerizing Incredible Riddim from a couple of years ago. If you’re an older fan of the DJ’s, Back It Up Deh and Bend You Back will take you back! They’re both the fairly straight-forward, well done, OPEN Dancehall music that Sean Paul specialized in on his way up. Back on topic: Reggaeton artist Nicky Jam and the great Damian Marley adorn No Fear and the trio bring Scorcha to a close in a huge way.

A that’s why mi stay so-
Cah wi escape from a place where it seem like poverty embrace you
You ah try win inna di race, when you look is a police ah chase you
And a pure gunshot dem ah spread, don’t think dem ah mace you nor court-case you
Dem will waste you
These are just the facts of life-
That each man tries to maximize
And meanwhile some will fantasize-
Of who they can’t be dem patronize
I hear African vibes all over this tune and the obvious influence from Nicky Jam (who does a SIMPLY beautiful hook. There’s nothing outlandish about it, but it STICKS with you) making for such a compelling and colourful piece and the best that I hear, altogether, on Scorcha. Lastly, check an interesting pair of solo selections in Good Day and Borrowed Time almost surely destined to get lost in the proverbial shuffle here. Going backwards, Borrowed Time is pretty odd, actually. On one hand, it isn’t a grand deviation from Back It Up Deh, Bend You Back and the likes, but you get to that chorus and shit changes! I don’t know what’s going there – I like some of it and I full on dislike some of it (just talking about the hook!). Borrowed Time comes in as two (or three) different tunes wrapped into one and I’ve found myself landing all over the place in terms of how I feel about it, but like I said, I don’t think it’s going to get a great deal of attention in the end. Good Day also has a different vibe to it… albeit it a consistently different one (whatever it is) and I ultimately came to enjoy it almost strictly based on its MOST PROFOUND punchline. “It’s a good fucking day”
It is a celebration of that day you’re luck to get a few times a month or so, when you wake up and you cannot find a damn thing to complain about. You still have whatever problems you did when you went to bed the night before, but you’ll deal with them tomorrow. Today you won’t even spend a second thinking about them and YOU WILL NOT GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO FIND SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT AND STRESS OVER!
Try no let dem negative forces-
Come inna yuh life and make your choices
Mi ah tell yuh, don’t let those voices block yah path dem and change your courses
While you should be burning more ses
Forget about all of your losses
And know the strength of your love is-
Like family inna wi thanksgiving
Forward stepping and wi nah give in
Upward livin and wi ever reppin
Done with the nega- make the posi- begin
Wait likkle bit and mek di spliff kick in
Before you go gwan wid di head bussin
Di Devil is a liar so don’t trust Him
Don’t trust him

It’s a good fucking day
Cause everything around me seems to go my way
And every move I make it real and it don’t fake
It’s a good fucking day
Cause everything around me seem to go my way
Sunshine rays keep blazing down upon my face
And all the rules designed to hold me back: I break
Oh yeah
It’s a good fucking day

BOOM! I don’t know what to call it musically so I’m not going to stress myself trying to figure it out but if he could leave you with a single message from the album, I’m sure Sean Paul would want us all to stop stressing over every little thing that we can think of. Listen to Scorcha, turn the real world off for a little while. It will be waiting for you later.

Overall, having reviewed it in this form, I do have a greater appreciation for Scorcha than I did after going through it a couple of times (that happens a lot which is part of the reason I write big ass reviews like this. The more I grind something down, the more likely I am to find something to cling to) (it can also help to provide a foundation for me NOT liking something as well), but still certain things remain. If you are looking for that rare, unicorn of a Dancehall album that is both fun and philosophical, you can keep on looking. You will not find that here for the most part (incidentally, Stage One did have elements of that and, of course, Bounty Killer and Capleton are masters of that, if you’re interested). That isn’t what this album is and it isn’t at the core of 99% of albums like it either.

What Scorcha does have going for it, however, is that it is either going to point you in the direction of a much earlier sound you enjoyed from Sean Paul or it’s going to fill in on what you may’ve missed back then. IT WILL NOT TAKE YOU ALL THE WAY THERE! There’re too many other sounds involved for me to declare it a full direct descendant of his early days. It’s fun, it never threatens to take itself too seriously, but it also has its moments of making an impact or two. These days I look at Sean Paul as someone in such a rare stage of their career. While we have other stars who have made international strides, they ultimately either comeback to Dancehall/Reggae COMPLETELY or they’ll spend the rest of their time having flashes that will grab a bigger spotlight, all the while doing their more typical work. Sean Paul never had that. He never returned fully and pretty much everything he’s done over the past two decades has received a very large amount of attention. Scorcha is both an example of the fact that he remains fully aware of exactly who’s listening now and who was listening in the beginning and he is still attempting to please us all. Good effort.

Where to get it

Buy @ Apple Music

More Sean Paul Music

Buy @ Apple Music