Summary

Neon is the final product of a long road of release date delays and endless changes for British R&B vocalist Jay Sean. Issued in 2009, All or Nothing was Sean's third album but his first for U.S. rap dominators Cash Money Records, and following its enormous success he was poised for even greater things. Work on an album called Freeze Time was announced, and over the next few years singles kept leaking out, some of them becoming huge hits, thanks in no small part to guest contributions from pop superstars like Nicki Minaj and Pitbull. Years dragged on and the album known as Freeze Time became mysteriously scrapped, replaced by more odd one-off releases and ultimately, after many delays, the arrival of Neon. Production here is far more pop, but the R&B elements of Sean's sound are more a guiding force for these songs than mere undertones, and his voice is as soulful and soaring as ever. Despite the absence of tunes already certified as hits before the album's release, Neon often stays true to the formula that gave birth to previous smashes, including standout tracks with cameos from the likes of Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, and Ace Hood. When the production strays from well-worn pop devices is when things get really interesting, as on the drifty beat and spaced-out samples of "Mars," a near-psychedelic ode to getting high with your lover that floats by on Sean's wafer-thin falsetto. Likewise, the Dream-indebted "Passenger Side" breaks out of cookie-cutter pop with its heavy, druggy beat and pained lyrical delivery. ~ Fred Thomas