African music is currently undergoing a crucial face lift and no element is being left behind. More value is being placed on and expected from records as more and more people are beginning to pay for their musical consumption. A few weeks ago, Afropop queen Yemi Alade was dragged and torn apart on social media by critics and fans alike over her lack of lyrical depth; to the surprise of many.
This anger was rekindled by a month old video of hers that resurfaced in which she retorted at her critics(over same lyrics issue),clapping back and affirming that she is cashing out regardless. She also claimed she was being picked on just because she was female. She may have had a point with her “smiling to the bank” assertion which she has honestly earned from her hard work and consistency but…it definitely had nothing to do with gender. Numerous male artistes have been butchered over their empty content and it was just Yemi Alade’s turn at the slaughter house.
Most of the current A-listers who are guilty of hot air lyrics definitely did not build their relevance on the backs of utterly meaningless songs. Although some people may argue that Yemi Alade’s lyrics have been similar from the onset, she definitely gave us more articulate words, interesting story lines and easier comprehension on songs like “Bamboo” and her evergreen “Johnny”. The big question is, what changed? Why the sudden need to make records that rely heavily on mostly their instrumentals to thrive as hits? These 3 stages explained below might directly or indirectly have something to do with the lyrical quality of the music churned out by Nigerian Artistes.
The Come Up
This is the time period when the artiste is mostly fueled by passion. All they want at this point is to be recognized for the authenticity and versatility of their talent. Many times than not, the music made in this phase is top notch in terms of subject matter, lyrics and structure. The production is sometimes not superb at this point but decent enough to bare the potentials of the artiste. Classic examples include Skales’ “Heading for A Grammy”, Timaya’s “True Story Album”, Iyanya’s “Love truly”, Mi Abaga’s “Talk about it” and a couple more gems.
By now, the artiste is getting some tangible amount of buzz and recognition. Management teams and record labels are probably on their case trying to pitch brand image and revamp sound to suit the “commercial” aspect of things. More emphasis is placed on who made the beat, who is to be featured, what type of video is to be shot, marketing strategies etc. Sometimes, this is where the problem starts as artistes who veer off completely from their former style struggle to make any sense of this new phase.
Attaining this status and still spitting lyrics that are half as sensible has got to be the holy grail of music. This is due to the fact that many factors threaten the artistes’ creative ability (except of courses those who use songwriters). Such factors include travelling and rehearsing for shows, losing sleep from all the promotion related late nights out and pressure from labels and fans alike, Little time to research, listen to music or read for broader perspectives and a host of other distractions.
Let us not forget the fact that some artistes are straight up blonde and wouldn’t still be creative even if they had a beach view apartment and all the time on their hands (no offence intended). For the few who are actually capable of delivering better, placing a premium on your creative time or making some budget room for songwriters should be a must do. That way we can truly avoid situations like:
Like African parents will imply, The likes of Fela, Asa, Dare Art Alade, Tuface, Phyno, Lagbaja, Seyi Shay, Omawunmi, Waje , Cobhams (to name a few) do not have 2 heads. Regardless of the fame attained and number of stadiums sold out, the richness of their content can be hardly ever questioned.(Not to say some of them do not sometimes digress but their pedigree nicely keeps them pardoned) Fela may be dead but the same will never be said for his music and if immortality through craft is not one of your major goals of any artiste, your priorities need some rearranging. Just maybe I will do a special article to share ideas on what can help to boost creativity for better artistic output (adjusts halo).