Valentines Special: Best Love Records From Naija Stars
Science believes that the air is a mixture of many gases, but whether you believe in it or not, right now, love is in the air!
It’s another valentine season, and as far as celebrations go, music is a constant feature. Undoubtedly, Nigerians have always been frenzied about love songs. From Juju, to Afrobeat, and Highlife era, down to the Afro-fusion (Afrobeats) evolution of the late 1990s and 2000s, and till this moment, love songs have remained a constant staple in Nigerian music. And for those who make them with pure emotion and sincerity, they easily become an instant classic.
From Onyeka Onwenu’s with her enchanting 1986 bop, You and I, to Sunny Nneji’s 2007 lovers anthem Oruka, to Wande Coal’s 2009 smash hit Ololufe, and even more recently with Chike’s Nakupenda, it is glaring that love songs in Nigeria possess a neat blend of profound lyricism, soul-stirring melodies, mesmerising vocals, and the distinct Nigerian cultural flavour, constantly ascending as classics. And the best part of everything is that there are always enough love songs to go round at every point in time.
So, for our Guardian Music Valentines Special, let’s take a trip downtown to ‘loversville’, as we explore special love-themed music projects (albums and extended plays), from recent years, that not only gave us the goosebumps we all needed, but are also etched forever in our memories.
Chike – Boo Of The Booless
WHEN this album came out early January 2020, it was as if Chike Osebuka, professionally known as Chike, knew the exact elixir for the anguish we all were suffering in those early days of the Coronavirus pandemic. The 13-track album became the ultimate love story that touched on several facets of human interaction, from a mother’s love expression for her soldier son, to admonitions on forgiveness and peace and on infidelity; to a pep on perseverance; lessons on heartbreak; as well as multiple professions of love, and so on.
Chike’s enchanting vocals stand out effortlessly on this project. The album reeks of love, euphoria, and while it nudges you to gently reflect on life and relationships, it also balances itself with a euphoric groove that can keep you on the dancefloor for a long time.
Apart from bagging a nod at the prestigious 2020 Headies Music Awards, the album also ushered Chike into the African music industry as an enchanting vocalist, with poetic and culturally-flavoured songwriting. An Album with no bad songs, a heavy replay value, as well as the right choice of collaborations – M.I. Abaga, Ric Hassani, and Zoro – Boo of The Booless exists as that perfect romantic mood music for every season.
Ric Hassani – African Gentleman
IF you are a fan of romantic Hollywood movies, with the emotive soundtrack, then Ric Hassani’s 2013 debut album dubbed, African Gentleman, is surely going to be among your must-listens.
Born Ikechukwu Eric Ahiazu, Ric Hassani has sturdily built a reputation for being one of the most enigmatic love apostles in Nigeria’s musicdom. However, his recent projects such as Thunder Fire You, might suggest otherwise. With Hassani, it is always a melange of slow-burn, outstretched melodies, that soothe the heart, mind and soul. On this debut, Hassani flaunts his songwriting whiz, which combs its influences from a varied array of American Pop, but blending in a soothing African flavour, especially with the Western and Southern African languages.
Till date, Hassani still deliberately mixes his projects with drops of African-coated lyricism, making him both a man of culture, and a merchant of melodies. And with sweet melodies like the Nico Mbarga sample, Sweet Mother, the drum-heavy bop Believe, the wedding theme song, Marry You, the lead single, Gentleman, and all other tracks on this project, then you will agree that on African Gentleman, there is no dull moment.
Simi – Restless II
AFTER Simisola Kosoko, professionally known as Simi, broke into limelight with her enchanting record dubbed, Tiff, in 2014, she became a star to behold. And from her joint album with Falz dubbed, Chemistry, in 2016, to her 2017 project, Simisola, down to her 2019 Omo Charlie Champagne Vol. 1, Simi has honed her empowering, intimate and vulnerable honesty in her music. And these are the gems that accompany her angelic lithe voice on her most recent project, an extended playlist dubbed Restless II.
In this EP, she spins an intriguing love story that touches on heartbreak, toxicity, unrequited love, and motherly love, among others. What one enjoys while listening to Simi is not just the brilliance behind her sound production and engineering (apparently, she’s one of the few female sound gurus in West Africa); it is actually the laid-back, soulful and eclectic groove that her songs give.
Undoubtedly, Simi is one artiste that you can listen to at any time of the day, and any day of your life, no matter how ‘restless’ you are.
Ckay – Boyfriend
ARGUABLY the most underrated EP of 2021, Ckay’s Boyfriend, is a harvest of game changing love records. The 7-track project rides off the vibes of his globally successful single, Love Nwantiti, creating a mature crop of alternative RnB that would surely make the Brandys, Styl Plus, and early-days Tuface Idibia to be reeling with awe of his talent. Ckay’s Boyfriend houses several adolescent/teenage love melodies such as Felony, Kiss Me Like You Miss Me, Jeje De Whine, among others, with a masterful pace that gives the project a heavy replay value. With his songwriting, Ckay has hacked the power of simplicity, smoothly infusing his silky vocals to transform simple lyrics into an enchanting, romantic classic.
Tuface – Ascension
WHEN it comes to making a music album, Tuface works like a pastry chef. Armed with songs that are consciously brewed with emotion, versatility and Afro RnB goodness, Tuface bakes his legacy of evergreen music into his discography. With his 2014 album, Ascension, Tuface emphasises his prowess with timeless love rhythms.
On Ascension, Tuface tag-teams Bridget Kelly on Let Somebody Love You, joining the efforts of the Dammy Krane-assisted Confessions, and the other solos Hate What You Do To Me, Boulay Boulay, Ife Dinma, Kiss of Life, and Close To Where You Are, into creating unforgettable love songs. As Tuface continues to maximise his reputation for being the King of Love songs in Nigeria, decades after his breakout smash hit African Queen, the Ascension project continues to redefine the perception and experience of romantic relationships for all generations of listeners. A true classic!
Banky W – RnBW
AFTER two albums in his shelf, at that time, Bankole Wellington, professionally known as Banky W, left out jaws open since 2013 with the genre-defining masterpiece, RnBW, and we haven’t closed them ever since. With his urban, pampered vibe of Afro RnB, Banky W spun the best Love project that year, giving us a neat mix of evergreen hits and mood music.
Songs like the Niyola-assisted Be My Lover (Yes/No Pt II), the Lynxx-assisted To My Unborn Child, the Tuface-assisted Good Good Loving, among others, give this album the depth it deserves to become an instant classic. It is a power-packed emotive record that spotlights Banky W’s fadeless vocal prowess. And as far as romance goes, Banky W deserves every rose this record would bring.
Waje – Heart Season
IN her latest project, an extended playlist dubbed, Heart Seasons, Waje returned to the microphones with enough reminders on why she is one of the most consistent, and intentional love singers in the Naija music scene. The EP bares a new feeling, like old wine in a new skin. The RnB playlist shows Waje, real name Aituaje Iruobe, in a much vulnerable, vibrant and intelligently intimate persona. It is an interesting love conversation that unfolds with five songs, Hold My Hands; Bottom Line; Call on Me; Last Time, and Naked. Her vocal range is tuned to give this project a rather sombre, reflective vibe.
It is especially cathartic for people who are experiencing a painful heartbreak or loneliness. With no glaring flaws, this project stands out as one of the best ‘love-dominant’ projects from Waje. An instant classic!
Fireboy – Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps
EVER since Adedamola Adefolahan, aka Fireboy, joined the music industry, it has been a buffet of love songs like never before. Minus the amazing marketing appeal that this album dragged with it when it was released, in 2019, Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps, is like the musical version of a Monalisa painting. It is the result of intensely poetic songwriting, Afro-fusion sound production, and the certified lover boy charisma that Fireboy commands.
From the opening track, Need You, Fireboy laces the album with a dazzling romantic vibe that has been uncommon since the reigning days of Paul Play. More songs like Vibrate, Scatter, and Jealous, give this project a sturdy dancehall appeal, revving up the Afro-pop vibe on the album. With Fireboy, it is all about pure emotion, interesting storytelling and his enchanting falsettos that continue to elevate his projects to classic status. And for every facet of a romantic relationship, Fireboy definitely has something to say in this album.
Niniola – 6th Heaven
NINIOLA Apata is an enigma in the Afro-music scene. The Afro-fusion chanteuse is one of the most versatile singers, having made her mark with Amapiano, Afro-House, and now Afro-RnB music. Released in 2021, the album returns Niniola to her Ballad-inspired beginnings, mirroring the vibes she honed on her 2017 debut This Is Me.
In 6th Heaven, Niniola ascends into the realm of romantic love, with her nerve-soothing 90s RnB flow, sensual lyricism, and her captivating vocals. With songs like Promise, The One, and Ryde, 6th Heaven is a pure expression of a girl’s fantasies, pains, and optimism. It is a well relatable love memoir, which marks Niniola as a leader in the contemporary school of love singers in Nigeria. It is a nostalgic reminder of classic 2000s RnB, but with all the Afro-fusion, bougie vibes that K Michelle, Keyshia Cole, and Mary J Blige lack in their own early discographies.
Johnny Drille – Before We Fall Asleep
IF there is one thing about Johnny Drille, it is the fact that you cannot miss his unique soothing vocals. On his recent 14-track album dubbed, Before We Fall Asleep, Johnny masters the ropes of experimentation, birthing unusual harmonies.
A no-bad-songs project, the album soars with its delicate Afro-fusion and exciting features. With songs such as My Kind of Brown, Loving Is Harder, Odo (feat Styl Plus), Sweet As A Mother’s Love, as well as Ova (feat Don Jazzy), Johnny sells a dreamy experience of love that etches the project as an instant classic. With a heightened romantic groove, the album appeals as a satisfying and enriching musical experience for all forms of romance.
Wizkid – Made In Lagos
SAVING the best for last? Apart from the fact that this is currently the most successful music album out of Africa, Wizkid’s fourth and latest studio album dubbed, Made In Lagos, actually shines as one delicately crafted to tend to the emotions, as well as to the temptations of the heart. From the Damian Marley-assisted self-love bop, Blessed, to the Tems-assisted Essence, down to other gems like the Tay Iwar and Projexx trio, True Love, to songs like Piece of Me (feat Ella Mai), the album spins with depth and soulful lyricism. The entire album feels very relaxing, sensual, and it projects Wizkid in a very emotional state. The album also reflects Wizkid’s lyrical growth; every song embodies well-balanced songwriting and a confident lyricism. Made In Lagos is definitely one album that is poised to stand the test of time, with its evergreen melodies and world-dominating groove.
OTHER notable mentions on this list include the 16-track love-themed album by Nigerian-British singer, Dr Adaku, dubbed The Vibes Are Known, which shines for its intimate storytelling, as well as catchy Afro-fusion; Tay Iwar’s Love And Isolation, which is more of a treatise on love and romance than an actual album, because its lyricism is rife with poetry; and also Joeboy’s Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic, which shines for its laid-back, gentle love adulations and upbeat Afro RnB/Pop melodies.
With a strong arsenal of evergreen musical projects, love is certainly an outstanding experience in Nigeria. And with the voices in the industry, it will always remain echoed in our minds and hearts. Happy Valentines!
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