We’ve all been there. It’s a summer party, in any of its myriad varieties: a house party, a roof party, a basement party, a pool party, a barbecue, a cookout, a kickback, a wedding reception, an engagement party, a baby shower; it doesn’t matter. You’re having fun, it’s nice outside, but there’s a problem at hand. The music isn’t right. Either someone just threw on a Spotify playlist of the streaming economy’s answer to Top 40 radio or, worse, a man with a T-shirt tucked into cut-offs and Vans has commandeered the aux and is doing an objectively terrible job with unnerving confidence. Things need to change. You can be that change.
The problem, as it were, becomes your own: What do you play? It’s a stressful question for even the savviest music connoisseurs, with a maze of questions to land on something that both makes you look cool and, more importantly, makes everyone happy. There are infinite choices, and not enough time to choose. Never fear, because as of today I have a solution for you. Just play Popcaan’s new album.
Popcaan, a Jamaican singer, songwriter and producer who’s become a leading voice in dancehall in the past half-decade, has always made music that’s perfect for these situations. Forever, which was released on Friday, is the platonic ideal of a summer party album – something you can throw on at any point in time, in any group of people, and it will work well. Want to keep the volume low so everyone can talk? The beats are airy, the vibe laconic; it’s perfect. Want to get people dancing? Just bump up the volume a few notches; they’ll get it. Need to get dishes done on a Sunday morning after everyone’s left your place? It hasn’t been out for long enough for me to try, but I bet Forever will work for that as well.
That’s not to say the album is about partying, per se. Popcaan is, by turns, paranoid and sincere and braggadocious. But he’s also a master of tone, and each song strives for an easy listenability that means the collection should do the trick of making everyone around you happy, no matter where you are.
We’ve spent some time on this site debating the song of the summer. The album of the summer, though, is a different affair, less flashy but, ideally, just as functional. Instead of whipping a party into a frenzy, it needs to be adaptable, a Swiss Army knife for any warm-weathered occasion. We could get into why this album doesn’t hit the high points of Popcaan’s last solo album – 2014’s excellent Where We Come From – but this isn’t an album review, it’s a recipe for success. Forever is so consistent it obviates the need for high points, instead recognizing that what you need to make the summer afternoons go by as pleasantly as possible is, maybe, some restraint. Some space, a little breeze – Forever understands that instinctually. You can thank me later.