Southwest Nigeria, home to millions of Yoruba people, is also home to both ancient and modern genres of music. The West African pop music known ... as Afrobeats, currently lighting up the global stage, began its 20-year journey from Lagos through London via America, and borrows irreverently from older musical traditions like Highlife, Jùjú and Fuji.
The 17-track project provided bubbling songs like ‘Champion’ featuring DSmoke, ‘New York City Girl’, ‘Afar’ starring the YBNL music executive Olamide, and ‘Spell’, a delicacy that complements his vocals with a feature from the ace crooner Wande Coal.
The following year, Fireboy held the Nigerian sound waves hostage, with his exotic Afrobeats single ‘Peru’, on social media, at nightclubs, events, beach fronts, and all. The release of ‘Peru’ was accompanied by an international collaboration on its remix with the UK star Ed Sheeran, earning Fireboy his first spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Fireboy appears on the remix of Madonna’s 1998 single ‘Frozen’ shortly before the release of his third album, cementing his bid for more international collaboration. On 26 June 2022, Fireboy broke a record with his ultimate earworm ‘Peru’ by being the first Afrobeats artist to perform live at the BET Awards. Meanwhile, his latest project – ‘Playboy’ – employs Chris Brown’s slivery vocals on splints of Nigerian patois.
New sonic approach on ‘Playboy’
Fireboy gears up for a new sonic approach that is synonymous with his previous album, but with a rhapsodic maturity. On ‘Playboy’, he sounds close to home; an example would be a person attempting to leave home, but unavoidably carrying the smell of home with them on their body and luggage.
Still, that does not overshadow the fact that Fireboy has the pulse to switch up his suggestive expression, as seen by his controversial track ‘Ashawo’.
On a bouncy tincture of highlife and Afrobeats is a set of Nigerian buzzwords that seem to have been muffled in the arches of our societal interaction. He sings about philandering in a relationship, blaming it on alcohol, and goes on to accuse his significant other of a similar act: “No be my fault oh na shayo/Na all of us be ashawo.”
The groovy vibes of ‘Ashawo’ smoothly bumps into the album-titled track ‘Playboy’. The late album single and instant hit has Fireboy in a parallel delivery that recursively limits his vigour, chiefly with the repetition of “oof!” in the chorus. However, ‘Playboy’ is an appealing party starter that stumbles to announce his acoustic charm. On ‘Bandana’, Fireboy uses the eccentric texture of Asake’s vocals on a chant-like chorus doused in a systematic studio work produced by the young hotshot P.Prime.
Playboy sails on a vibrancy that only reassures us of his range, from highlife to reggae, R&B, alté, and established Afrobeats — a garland of his self-described “Afro Life” sound. It’s difficult not to think of ‘Sofri’s’ sensual lyrics and sultry stride as an ode to rouse the waist. “Daina” perfectly syncs Chris Brown’s soulful vocals to the instrumental flow and impelling cadence of the Jamaican dancehall singer Shenseea.
‘Compromise’ throbs on a hypnotic flow that melds Fireboy’s vocals into Rema’s melodious rascality with an impulse, which makes it hard to differentiate the two.
That being said, Playboy is a promising body of work that demonstrates our existing understanding of the artiste and his immense ability to make good music. It does not go higher than dishing out from a safe place.
“Music chose me,” Fireboy sings on ‘Bandana’. “Just know this and know peace.” He revels in the comfort of his savoir faire. The production of this great project does little to stretch him beyond his abilities; each song mirrors the height of his prior work and showcases that there is always a haven to lean on one’s strength rather than fall short.
Playboy might not have blown us away with gratification that followed after a stellar work like Apollo, but it is a project that ensures Fireboy’s credibility.
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