Afrobeats was streamed more than 13 billion times on Spotify in 2022. To celebrate, the app recently launched an active infographic website to record, track and cheer the growth of the genre, subtitled ‘Journey of a Billion Streams’.
In a sign of how things have changed, as of 3 July 2023 not one of the Afrobeats quintet of 2012 –Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage and Olamide – is in the top five streamed Afrobeats songs of all time: these spots are taken by Rema (twice), CKay (twice) and Libianca.
Burna Boy clinches the sixth spot with ‘Last Last’, a remodelling of Toni Braxton’s ‘Wasn’t Man Enough’ courtesy of producer Chopstix. The consensus is that Burna Boy yodelled the hell out of his heartbreak and garnered incredible global reception.
‘Sittin’ on Top of the World’, Burna’s latest tribute to the 90s hip-hop ‘shiny suit era’ by way of the Brandy and Mase ‘Top of the World’ sample, has not been as successful. Released on the eve of his Love, Damini tour, it misses the oomph that ‘Last Last’ has.
Wizkid’s ‘Essence’, which didn’t make it onto the ‘top 10 streamed’ but comes in sixth on on the ‘most playlisted Afrobeats songs’, was was elevated by Tems’s genius. With the modest reception of his album More Love, Less Ego, Wizkid must rally all his old tunes and launder his London Boy image to pull through at his stadium concert in the UK capital on 29 July.
The genre is hitting new records. It now sells out stadiums in Europe, thanks to Burna Boy and (fingers crossed) Wizkid.
But, let’s face it, 2023 has not been a stellar year for Afrobeat songs so far.
It is not as though we don’t have vibrant tunes or memorable songs charting. But this time last year, Asake’s warm-up to glory had morphed into a full-blown sprint.
In 2023, the prolific Asake has already graced us with the Basquiat-inspired sophomore Work of Art, and his street-hop peer, Seyi Vibez, has also given us two projects.
Seyi’s latest album, Vibe Till Thy Kingdom Come, is supported by the smash hit single ‘Hat Trick’, with an opening scene in the video featuring a sultry kiss and a flash of his grillz. Seyi Vibez namechecks Tems, the most streamed female Afrobeat artist on Spotify, as he begins his boastful verse.
We were still in the post-aural orgasm of Rema’s smash hit ‘Calm Down’ with an incandescent Selena Gomez assist, when he dropped the slow-burning but confident single ‘Charm’, complete with a dance routine and an accompanying video he co-directed.
The infusion of Soweto’s Amapiano into the Afrobeats matrix is more than half a decade in practice. Log drums now impersonate talking drums in a complete analog-to-digital makeover. The Afrobeats zeitgeist is punishingly Amapiano. Asake staked a claim to Amapiano on the eponymous single with a masterful guest verse from his label boss, Olamide.
Skin in the game
Veteran singer Kcee, with over 20 years of experience, still has skin in the game. He pitched his infectious single ‘Ojapiano’ into the ring, and it caught fire first on Nigerian streets and Tik-Tok. The inventive fusion of Oja, the Igbo flute, with Amapiano, is helmed by a JaySynths production and, lag notwithstanding, streaming apps algorithms, class tensions, or parlous lyrics could not rub this tune off its shine. Trust an old-timer to milk our attention.
Kcee has followed up with the less effective ‘Ojaginger’. His success is unique, but what is not clear is if Amapiano or Afrobeats gained the talking drums and flutes. Industry hands and Afrobeats enthusiasts, intoxicated with euphoria, are too busy to introspect or distracted by raunchy gossip.
Instead of a second single from his transcendental album, Timeless, we have more baby mama drama from Davido. Sean Tizzle, the controversial winner of the Headies 2013 Next-Rated Award (Burna Boy was also nominated in that category), returns with a long overdue sophomore LP, Dues, nine years after his classic debut LP, The Journey.
Wande Coal weighs in on the ongoing debate about his place in the Afrobeats canon with his third LP, Legend Or No Legend, with mixed results. His lead single, ‘Kpe Paso’, features a role reversal with Olamide helming the chorus, but it hardly held our attention. Both projects stand out as tributes to a forgotten era.
Named a cheat in Yvonne Nelson’s recent tell-it-all memoir, Iyanya brought out his aptly titled six-track EP, Love & Trust, in an attempt to strike lighting thrice. He has a slow-burner in ‘Sinner’ featuring Bnxn fka Buju but must contend with the allure of Port Harcourt-born Omah Lay’s edgy and rueful single, ‘Reason’, an update from the deluxe version of his debut album, Boy Alone.
Victony has tested the life span of an Afrobeat song with the various remixes of his rapturous ditty, ‘Soweto’, throughout the year. Unrelenting in trapping our attention, he has advanced us two love songs, ‘My Darling’ and ‘Angelus’, featuring warm electric guitar and steel pedal-guitar interpolations, respectively. Borrowing from juju and highlife traditions is not new, but the appearance of steel pedal guitars in Afrobeats is.
Adekunle Gold fronts his fifth album, Tequila Ever After, with the successful duet, ‘Party No Dey Stop’, with Zinoleesky. His latest single, ‘Ogaranya’, continues his recent tradition of thanksgiving and boastfulness.
Teni may have missed out on Spotify’s Top Female Afrobeats Artists, but her fast-paced ‘No Days Off’ is not missing from any serious Afrobeats summer playlist. Ditto for Amaarae, whose sophomore album, Fountain Baby, comes highly recommended. Tiwa Savage’s ‘Pick Up’ samples and elevates 9ice’s ‘No Be Mistake’, a placeholder in one of the longest runs of Afrobeats dominance.
We can expect album and single releases to increase, as is customary in the second half of the year, but for now, listen and maybe bust a move!
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