Carmen Portelli / Retna
Chris Willman
August 13, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Sean Kingston

Current Status
In Season
Sean Kingston
Reggae/Ska, Hip-Hop/Rap

We gave it a B

We thought the Summer Single of 2007 was ”Umbrella.” We were wrong. That honor now goes to 17-year-old Sean Kingston’s ”Beautiful Girls” — you know, the one with the Jamaican patois that goes ”You’ll have me suicidal” (or ”in denial,” in the nervous-Nellie alternate radio edit). It’s an irritatingly irresistible pop smash that uses a ”Stand by Me” sample and electronic vocal processing to make Kingston’s West Indies dialect sound more sci-fi. If Jar Jar Binks ever borrowed C-3PO’s voice box to bemoan his adolescent sexual frustration, it would sound…well, not nearly as endearing as this.

At its best, Kingston’s debut CD, Sean Kingston, keeps turning familiar riffs into dancehall cotton candy. ”Me Love” transforms the faux reggae of Led Zeppelin’s ”D’Yer Mak’er” into, you know, only slightly less-faux reggae. ”Got No Shorty” updates the circa-1915 ”I Ain’t Got Nobody” for 21st-century urban outcasts. There — and in ”Dry Your Eyes,” a tribute to his imprisoned real-life ”mommy” — he’s a baby-faced underdog you can’t help but get behind. Unfortunately, a few unconvincingly tough hip-hop tracks (including his first teaser single, ”Colors 2007,” which went nowhere) seem like vestiges of a plot to present Kingston as a pudgy thug, before ”Girls” made him a star softie. He’s hardly the first 17-year-old with an identity crisis. Happily, the public has voted: Gangsta, nay. Lovably thwarted teen gigolo, yay. B

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