Album Review: Lady Donli travels through sonic times and finds growth on ‘Enjoy Your Life’
On ‘Enjoy Your Life,’ Lady Donli further explores her creative freedom and excels without losing herself or over-saturating her album.
Lady Donli is the Nigerian singer-songwriter who initially got known for soul/R&B blend of smooth music. But that brand of music was always going to be a sub-cultural/niche success.
While a few acts are contented with retaining their artistry that only feeds their loyal fanbase and just about helps them get by, the great acts push the envelope conceptually, sonically and thematically.
They hope to create music that transcend their already established/burgeoning fanbase. - Lady Donli is one of these. Initially, she was boxed into the ‘alte’ definition of artistry - whatever that means. With her first two projects, Wallflower (2016) and Letters To Her (2017), she established her undoubted talent.
If she had continued on that path, her commendable songwriting and sound, which had already carved a path would have conveyed her to some level of success. But as ‘Enjoy Your Life’ suggest, she wanted more.
The journey started with the dance-pop/EDM blend of 'Poison.' What she did next was travel through time to create an album of different sonic eras on different continents and combine them into one experience without losing the tenets of her artistry - the creative freedom/unpredictability of avant-gardism.
To 'enjoy your life,’ you need a myriad of positive factors to align. What Donli has done here is give her listeners a 37-minute experience that documents the those necessary factors; money, a good time (party, food and happiness), peace, dance, love, sex, great music (presumably for every kind of situation), and positivity.
At times, Enjoy Your Life, also a takes a political and socially conscious path, talking about the prevalent issues in an ailing Nigeria. In these parts, Enjoy You Life as a clause becomes sarcastic - people enjoying their lives at the expense of the majority. While the album mostly represents a generally held dream, it is also a sarcastic base to convey displeasure.
While in the total experience of the central theme, ‘Enjoy Your Life,’ some songs topically stick out, Donli finds a way to give every music lover at least one thing they like - she even raps. She’s also a creative chameleon always shining her brightest colours, imitating times and succeeding without running the risk of saturation.
At different times, she’s a 90’s baby, a 90’s baby inspired by American music, a 90’s baby groomed by - Northern - Nigeria and the 90’s baby with a sonic dream. She found a cohesion for it all - her soul background, which glues everything.
The alte demography has given us some sonic foods for thought, but this is definitely the pick of all the experimental music we’ve gotten to over the past five years. All the while, Lady Donli doesn’t take substance and good music for granted.
The most impressive part is how ‘Enjoy Your Life’ mostly reflects Nigeria, youth and human aspirations in all parts. There's also the place of detail. Here is a breakdown of the songs;
A Northern Nigeria-inspire sound, and a call-and-response that sets the tone for ‘Enjoy Your Life’ - a manifesto, if you will. ‘Zaman Lafiya’ means to live in peace. Through the first verse, Donli asks what people want. People want the goodies of life and with those you can ‘Enjoy Your Life.' The answer must be simple
While the topic of living in peace also ties into a fundamental Nigerian - nigh a global -need, there is a little discrepancy with how Donli tells people to come and dance to live in peace. Maybe she means to tell people to find solace in - her - music that aims to let you, ‘Enjoy Your Life,’ but that’s a hole.
For the most part, this song roughly follows manifesto that ‘Zaman Lafiya’ established. Lady Donli speaks into the Nigerian political and social zeitgeist. One Nigerian dream is to travel abroad and tweet your love for this country from western colonies, another is to get into the upper echelons of government and embezzle funds.
While there is a topical disparity between Donli talking about growing up as a studio rat to ‘dividing the national cake,’ as Donli fails to properly scale, the overall idea can be deduced. The entire purport of working or having a dream is to avoid suffering, but sometimes, a shortcut - like embezzlement - also helps. It seems a satire.
Donli uses her presumed story to speak through the eyes of the average Nigerian. The production, a lo-fi sound gleaning afrobeat and afro-folk percussion, the producer excels with the simple organ accompanies the beat.
Cash is the GMK-produced number that chronicles the effects, needs and the toll of money. Again, Donli speaks as an average Nigerian who simply wants to make money. “Na me e dey do,” is definitely a very Nigerian desperation for riches.
The beat is an afro-house-esque up-tempo beat, supported by African percussion, piano chords and intermittent guitar chords which shows us another side to the ever-evolving Lady Donli.
Good Time featuring Tems
This one seemingly commences a different narrative - different from the socio-political chatter we’ve been treated to.
This time, it seems Lady Donli is not just the average Nigerian anymore, she is the average Nigerian youth who just wants to forget the problems and just enjoy the goodies of life which he/she can afford. ‘Good Time’ seems another manisfesto for a more youthful chatter.
Tems impeccably opens up to an R&B production that sees her lyrically appreciate life. Donli follows on a new jack swing production as she raps - the rap sometimes feels lazy, “Inventing my invention,” but her message is understood.
Confusion sets in on this very late 90’s/early 2000’s Nigerian R&B sound could have also passed as soundtrack for a Nollywood movie from that time. It also feels like an OJB Jezreel-produced song as well as the dancehall-fusion sounds of the early 2000’s.
Topically, confusion sets in and Donli’s character is not as assured. This is also one of the songs that topically sticks out in the entire ‘Enjoy Your Life’ narrative. But on a more natural side, things like doubt and anxiety are almost fundamental to youth. In some ways, one could say ‘Answers’ topically ushers in the topics of uncertainties in love that are to follow.
The P Square line from ‘Bizzy Body’ is also seen.
A dance-pop song that excels on topics of love. Presumably, Donli’s character is being taken for granted in love, but she vows to not be a boomerang - once she’s gone, she’s gone baby gone.
Presumably, this lover is ‘enjoying his life’ and fails to appreciate his partner?
Take Me Home featuring BenjiFlow
Presumably as a fall-out from the dysfunctional love affair on ‘Boomerang,’ Donli is a modern woman, now presumably cynical while still craving the ‘wash’ of the chase.
With this, we’re right back on track for ‘Enjoy Your Life’ narrative. A lo-fi afrobeats with slight Caribbean influences, BenjiFlow accepts responbility to ‘wash’ Donli. The reference to D’Banj’s lyrics on ‘Mogbona Felli Felli’ are nostalgic, but quite unnecessary, but the trumpets in the final few seconds are beautiful, My God!
FLAVA featuring SomaDina and amaarae
A more open exploration of identity and beauty, Donli is assisted by two talented women. The beat is very American R&B from the Aaliyah and girl group era of acts like Destiny’s Child or TLC that trickles into reggae as amaarae croons what becomes sexuality.
Corner featuring VanJess and The Cavemen
On another impressive production with an afro-folk percussion and impressive organ, it’s unclear what Donli is talking about. At one point, it feels like deception. Other times, it feels like love. Other times, she’s talking about her artistic come up. This one lacks topical cohesion, but there’s definitely a hue of enjoyment to it all.
In a way, and for topical cohesion, one feels ‘Corner’ might have been better coming between ‘Answer’ and ‘Boomerang.’ It’s a good listen, just questionably executed.
One of the best songs on this album, ‘Enjoy Your Life’ takes the form of love and drifts away from material things. Love is meant to be enjoyed, right? But, we deserve an apology for how short this song is. It feels like a loosie when it could have been a whole song - a good one.
With The Kindness featuring Tomi Thomas
Afrobeat. Those trumpets are beautiful. Tomi Thomas’s vocals are soothing - no homo. At this point, Donli’s ability to provide the appropriate cadences for the variety her album is should be applauded.
This time, Donli spreads good vibes with a little hint of megalomania - she really thinks she’s gonna change the world with positive energy. Tying this into ‘Enjoy Your Life’ is hard, but it’s not hard to fathom that people can find happiness in spreading positive energy.
The melodies of the final few 40 seconds of this track are orgasmic.
A very galala-esque sound that Daddy Showkey will be proud of. Tay Iwar, take a bow, son. How Donli is very Nigerian with how she picks the words is quite beautiful. This song feels perfect as a theme song for a Nigerian soap opera of the early 2000’s.
Topically, Donli is bullish on this one, bragging about her crew. Like the last few tracks, this one is about sonic experimentation and not topical excellence.
Confident/Feeling Cool featuring Solis
A very native sound from Northern Nigerian sees Donli overdose on ‘gassing’ herself - you gotta be your own hypeman, right?
The segue into ‘Feeling Cool,’ an contemporary R&B number is impressive. The topic is even better, Solis sings about the joys of being in love.
A ballad, ‘Trouble’ documents the unfairness of society on a good heart that grows stoic. The pianos and strings are just too good. Then, those bass guitars that takeover the final few seconds perfectly set the tone for the best bit of production on ‘Enjoy Your Life’…
Bite The Dust
Ladies and gentlemen, Donli and Chubbz saved the best for last, GOD DAMN IT! This writer feels this is literally the best bit of production on Enjoy Your Life.
The way those vocal samples become a boat for Donli’s vocals which then usher in the height of melody and percussion at 00:55 is insane. There comes a time when the songwriting and topic are far beneath the production - this is one of those times. The best thing Donli did after 00:55 was let the beat run free with a vocal sample on a loop.
A man can dream and since dreams are free, a man can hope to Donli gets Zlatan on this song’s remix.
That could be Donli’s door to the Nigerian mainstream flung open. The little chat at the end is a great touch, but I like how Donli reminds listeners that she’s just getting started, a part of this writer’s soul screams Zlatan’s adlibs as an endorsement, ‘AYEEEEEEEE, JE’ONMO, Donli!’
On Enjoy Your Life, production often supersedes content. Asides the earlier noted factors, one could also say that on the topical side, the album relates to the freedom with which Donli operates throughout this album. One way to truly enjoy your life is a freedom to explore.
'Enjoy your life’ also seems to relate to the brilliant sounds on this album. With that the album’s title could then be a manifesto on what she hopes her fans feel.
Nonetheless, when an album makes you appreciate the sonic or topical cohesion of singles, more often than not, it’s a good album - Enjoy Your Life is just that. But on the track listing side, the album could have done without a few tracks.
Enjoy Your Life is what Odunsi hoped to achieve with rare, but he forgot one thing Donli prioritizes; she didn’t prioritize aesthetics and get comfortable with them. As stated earlier, the sounds are exceptional, yet substantiated by better songwriting.
This album is definitely one of the top five Nigerian albums of 2019, so far. Z, be proud.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
Themes and Content: 1.7/2
Enjoyability, Cohesion and Satisfaction: 1.8/2
8.9 - Victory
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