With his third solo outing, Wyclef Jean offers up yet another concept album. This time it’s a “masquerade,” but unlike the colorful Carnival, the comparatively unfocused Masquerade fails to conjure the jubilance its title implies. The album’s first single, “Two Wrongs” (featuring Claudette Ortiz of City High), is the strongest of the album’s many collaborations (then again, we’ll take anything over those City High Real World TV spots). Wyclef imports his always engaging multi-cultural palette of worldly beats and samples (“Peace God,” “Masquerade” and “Party Like I Party”), but more traditional rock samplage like the coming-of-age “Oh What a Night” (which paraphrases “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane”) and a cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” fall flat by comparison. Lyrically, Wyclef sends mixed messages, peppering his positive “message to the streets” with acrimony and, well, just plain bad rhymes (“I wish there was a sequel to The Sixth Sense/So I could see dead people,” he says on “Daddy,” a track which features an otherwise stirring piano and vocal arrangement by Jennifer Hamady). He presumptuously toots his own horn on “80 Bars” and “Oh What a Night”: “Who thought he would rule the industry?” Judging by this album, it’s unclear which industry he’s talking about.
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