Some people were born artistes while others work to become artists. Fireboy was born with a voice and a pen and all he ever wanted to do was sing and get paid for it. In November 2018, he released a song to that effect.
The song collaborative effort with the equally talented Oxlade is titled, ‘Sing.’ That song’s final 30 seconds and hook are a mesmerizing showcase of vocalization and muscle flexing that bothered on showboating. In an interview with Joeboy earlier in 2018, he tells Pulse Nigeria that he was in the same songwriting academy with Fireboy.
Finally, he got his big break on YBNL Nation, a compilation by Olamide’s label to showcase his new acts - it was released in December 2018. Interestingly, of Olamide’s recruits, the lean dreaded Fireboy was the least documented. But suddenly, a song titled ‘Jealous’ slowly gained ground and became one of the biggest songs of 2019.
‘What If I Say’ came next. Although the song heavily ties into Nigeria’s current obsession with ‘wash’ songs, it lacked the gravitas of a single and only performed reasonably. ‘King,’ a song that was originally released in 2018 got a video. It showcased Fireboy’s vocal range and consistency as a good songwriter, but it also failed to hit those ‘Jealous’ heights.
Then an album titled Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps was initially scheduled to drop on November 25, 2019.
However, due to the presumed effects of Davido’s A Good Time, it dropped on November 29, 2019. Upon release, Twitter NG went into overdrive. Fireboy became the No. 2 trending topic by 7 am in the morning. Rema and Joeboy came into the mix and so did Olamide and Pheelz.
Olamide trended because he had unearthed yet another impactful artist in under 10 years. Pheelz began to trend because he is acing his second act as a music producer - albeit with some faults.
The album excels on impeccable songwriting as Fireboy launched into a land that had just witnessed a rain of love. With his quill and ink in the ensuing petrichor, Fireboy creates sunsets and rainbows about love, longing, adulation and pain.
For 40 minutes, he becomes the de facto leader of this land and operates by his own rules. Unlike other acts, Fireboy bravely went through 13 tracks by himself.
It’s good that artists don’t want to be boxed into one brand of music. Sometimes it won’t work, but the effort and recognition of a need to diversify sound and style is all that matters. To this end, Fireboy intermittently went into the land of lamba and delivered some songs.
The album has strong moments and mezmerizing songs, but if we'll be fair, this is not an exceptional album and it is very unlikely to be a classic. What it will be is a polarizing project that most people will really love and a few people will be indifferent about. Nonetheless, even the indifferent ones will admit that it produced some incredible songs.
Here is why;
‘Need You’ is one of the most beautiful Nigerian songs of 2019 - Lord God! For the production, Pheelz rolls back the years to his work on ‘Orente’ for Adekunle Gold. With a beautiful chorus of acoustic guitars, Pheelz produces an inundating melody. Fireboy didn’t let him down. With his vocal prowess, he professes love.
This should be marketed as 'wedding reception music' and it could be a single - if pushed properly. ‘Vibration’ is more pop-esque beat which merges piano chords of late 2010s EDM with underlying guitar chords and a defining trumpet for hook. Look, it’s one of those songs where what the singer says doesn’t matter.
What matters in these circumstances is that the singer generates the appropriate amount of adlibs, delivery and vibes to match a beautiful beat - Fireboy did exactly that. ‘Scatter’ is built on the atypical Pheelz lamba. Fireboy has the cadence to match, but he dwells excessively on adlibs and expletives.
The beat has promise, but its hook is excessively built like electronic music and it lacked the appropriate melody that could have made the song exceptional. If this song blows up, it will be due to heavy promotion and not quality. With it, Fireboy tries to branch out and diversify his style, but it didn’t quite work out. It lacks the melody that comes with the best Fireboy songs.
Detty December looms, and it’s understandable why ‘Scatter’ got pushed as single. But should it have been a single? Time will tell. But prospectively, it’s not exactly remarkable.’ ‘Jealous’ comes next and you already know what that is.
‘Energy’ represents the tales of a coy loverboy and it could be a teen favourite. It’s yet another beautiful song that contains those defining Fireboy adlibs which sound like strings. Those adlibs are very pronounced on 2:33.
‘Like I Do’ is starting to grow up people and the reason is very simple. Like ‘Jealous,’ it is a dreamy love/R&B song built on a dreamy pop beat with tungba percussion. What is this madness? P-Prime, be proud.
The moment which defines this song starts from its bridge and ends on that layered, multi-sonic ambient which forms its hook. What Fireboy did with this song is deftly build expectation and deliver in brilliant fashion.
Look, the beat on ‘Gbas Gbos’ is the best thing Pheelz has made in 2019. It is the quintessential afrobeat arrangement that Fireboy somehow turns into an R&B song. ‘Gbas Gbos’ also has potential to be a single and it makes it more befuddling that ‘Scatter’ got pushed a single.
‘Omo Ologo’ drops next and it sounds good, but it has no business on this album. Diversification is important, but sometimes, the difference between needed experimentation and scatter-brained musicianship is a thin line. An artist can do whatever he wants, but he shouldn’t intentionally harm himself.
Thus, ‘Omo Ologo’ is against the entire spirit of Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. But again, it’s a good dance song. Of course it’s good - Cracker produced it.
Sometimes, as an artist makes an album, it’s important not to repeat something familiar. Even if the repeated formula has a good result like on ‘High On Life,’ the fact that the listener has heard something like it could drive cynicism.
‘High On Life’ is cut from the same sonic spirit as ‘Gbas Gbos’ - afrobeat drum arrangement with an empirical gaze for songwriting. However, ‘Gbas Gbos’ seems like a better song - at least to this writer. Thus, ‘High On Life’ wouldn’t have been missed, had it not been included. Its inclusion reduces the enjoyment of this album.
‘Feel’ could have easily followed that pattern, but its hook makes it more R&B than ‘High On Life,’ so it stays beautiful. This is such a good song and Cracker should drink beer on my behalf. Could this also be a single? Yes! “I need you to feel my love in your soul…” feels like a line that could easily resonate.
‘What If I Say’ drops next and you already know about it. This writer has always felt it a questionable song though. ‘Wait and See’ closes the album out and it is a subtly vindictive dig at Fireboy’s doubters. Pheelz really knows how to work multiple instruments on a beat - most producers can’t do that.
Here, he uses flute strings to support a hook that’s defined by cloud strings and guitars. I also like the ambient (genre of music) energy that Fireboy occasionally assumes throughout Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. On ‘Wait and See,’ he again gleans ambient with vocoders and great mixing. Imogen Heap must be proud.
When this album dropped on November 29, 2019, this writer played it and felt it wasn’t bad. But while giving it a second listen, he was going through twitter and saw a lot of hyperbole and hype with which people qualified Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. It made him cynical towards the album.
It’s funny how cynicism works because by a third listen - this time without Twitter - the album's became apparent. It’s a really good album - not exceptional, but really good. Will it go down as a classic? It’s not impossible but logical people know that is unlikely.
For a debut album, this is formidable and commendable. Fireboy justifies his talent and burgeoning reputation with an anthem for love season. He constantly talks about love and thanks to similar beat patterns with unique approaches and his own insane vocalizations, he never bores his audience - that’s hard to achieve.
Culturally, the album is a whole lesson on the need for melody and appropriate climax in afrobeats. Nonetheless, there are weaknesses. It seems Fireboy is so desperate not to get boxed into R&B that he hopes to attract radio and hits with lamba. Diversification is good, but going from R&B to shepeteri is very risque and it backfired as part of this album.
In the same vein, Fireboy needs to curb this ‘afro-life’ narrative. His music is predominantly a unique brand of R&B that he is leading with members of his generation. Sometimes, the music leaves love and talks about social issues with empirical songwriting, but it’s still R&B.
When Chris Brown released ‘Deuces,’ R&B changed forever from being primarily about love to honest chatter about anything. Singers like 6lack have since expanded the limits of the genre.
In essence, Fireboy makes R&B. If he wants to stylized it, he can change it to afro&B or pop&B. It’s okay to want to stand out, but what defines a genre of music is beat, songwriting, mode of delivery and style.
A song can be a number of genres, but sadly, afro-life can’t be classified. It is also not a hill Fireboy wants to die on. Thus, it’s time to move and just make music instead of pursuing sentimental uniqueness.
On Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps, Fireboy is like a more evolved Adekunle Gold. He has opened his account and the sky is his starting point. This album will resonate with a Nigeria that is currently obsessed with well-crafted R&B numbers on pop beats and it will age really well. That said, ‘Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps’ is a terrible album title.
• 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
Content and Themes: 1.7/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.5/2
7.5 - Victory