Wyclef Jean could probably write infectious ditties in his sleep; the problem is that he often seems to be doing just that. After his striking solo debut with Carnival, Jean's modus operandi increasingly revolves around slapping clichéd lyrics and simplistic rhymes onto a superficially catchy melody, tossing in a big-name guest or two for variety, adding some hype-man-style ad-libs and an R&B chorus, then calling it a day.
On The Carnival II: Memoirs Of An Immigrant, Jean is as much old-school master of ceremonies as hip-hop MC. On his star-studded new "solo" album, Jean plays second fiddle to a seemingly random assortment of guests that includes Shakira, Paul Simon, Louis Farrakhan, Akon, Norah Jones, Lil Wayne, that guy from System Of A Down, and many more. (But not, alas, all on the same song.) Ever the gracious host, Jean regularly lets his superstar guests upstage him. His music is all about shimmering surfaces: His songs forfeit their mystery and wonder the first time around. It isn't an encouraging sign that the disc's most resonant song—"Heaven's In New York," in which a little melancholy finally slips through the blinding slickness—is a holdover from a movie (One Last Thing) about a dying teenager's last wish to bang a supermodel. Immigrant goes down smooth. Just don't expect it to linger.