As far as Emo goes in Afrobeats, CKay is the central figure whose music conveys the recurring angst in Emo Pop. He brings it together through his deployment of English, Pidgin, Igbo, high-pitched melodies, rhythmic guitars, percussion, and confessional lyrics concerning pain, relationships, and heartbreak.
CKay explores Love, Pleasure, and Pain in 'Sad Romance' [Pulse Album Review]
The Emo sound is identifiable for its emotional subjects that perch on depression, heartbreak, and pain. To convey this pain, these artists employ a sound that can evoke the sadness and hurt they wish to showcase. Hence many consider Emo music to be an inherently sad sound made by sad artists for sad consumers.
After experiencing the lows that come with making a type of music that doesn't inspire much faith in terms of its marketability and the highs that comes with an unpredictable rise to global fame, CKay decided it was time to put out his debut album.
In 'Sad Romance', CKay taps into his emotions and makes bold confessions about his many complications with love and relationships. All this he did through a deeply cloudy sound that the average Afrobeats consumer must be consciously willing to enjoy.
'Sad Romance' as the name suggests conveys the experiences of the artist with the ups and downs of love and commitment in a modern world where there are more complications and appendages.
One of the complications of love is the good old "Keep it on the low" AKA "Don't let anybody know" kind of love and for celebrities like CKay's with a plethora of gorgeous women to choose from, he couldn't be allowed himself to be possessed by one woman. "But we won't take pictures...Don't let know body see us" he says on 'You' while proceeding to tell his love interest that he does love her and wants her. The Amapiano record fuses heavy Emo elements of high-pitched melodies and rhythmic guitars to create a Pop sound that's easily digestible.
CKay doesn't hesitate to share that some of his love adventures have been driven by his sexual desires. On the Dancehall record 'Soja', he sings about sex without taking the trouble to employ euphemisms. "We suppose don f**c by now," he says on 'By now' as he flaunts his sexual desires before again restating his wishes to keep it low key. "F**c like I miss you" on 'You', before proceeding on an unabashed sexual glorification on 'Mmadu' where he switches between English and Igbo over heavy baselines, percussions, and whispering horns.
Indecision and fear of commitment are prominent in modern love and CKay has had his fair share of this as this album reveals. "She no fit leave me alone...She's way too in love," he says in 'Leave Me Alone', as he narrates the burden that comes with contending with a lover who was hopelessly in love with him and to whom he couldn't be faithful hard as he tried.
Similarly, on the speaker-rattling Amapiano hit 'Watawi', "We are what we are" CKay, like the metaphoric Yoruba demon replies to the relationship-defining question "What Are We?". The single holds up his status as a global superstar as he recruits an Afrobeats megastar, a South African Amapiano maestro, and a hit producer to create a certified Amapiano hit. The single also showed his willingness to pursue the commercial appeal needed to grow his fame, especially in Nigeria.
CKay grapples with infidelity and he retains sufficient self-awareness to know that he won't be the man the women at different points in his life needed him to be. "I cheated you cheated too," he says on the vindictive track which highlights his non-commital and casual approach to love.
One of the many sides to CKay's romantic side is his strong desire to chase whichever woman he fancies irrespective of the fact that she might be with another man as he we discover in 'Come Closer' where he duets with Ayra Starr. The Emo-R&B single is one of the standouts on the album as it deploys percussion, Highlife strings, Jazz horns, and simple lyrics and melody that is easily digestible for Afrobeats audience who will rather not be burdened with cloudy Emo sound.
In his international collaboration 'Samson and Delilah,' he explores the subject of toxic and dangerous love. The Latino-styled song features Mayra Andrade the Portuguese-based Cape Verdian singer. The song is positioned to appeal to Latin audiences and European listeners especially in Portugal where 'Love Nwantiti' had a good run atop the chart.
Ronisia another Cape Verdian artist based in France is CKay's choice for 'Lose you' where he admits his shortcomings and weaknesses while pleading that he be loved and accepted while he works on himself. The orchestra combines with horns to create an easy Pop record that will appeal to French and European listeners.
While the addition of 'Love Nwantiti' to the album might be considered by some to be a lazy, glory seeking attempt, absolutely nothing precludes him from doing so. The song blew up just over a year ago and is still doing well, hence it’s well positioned to give the album some needed push. Besides, Ckay brings freshness to the track by adding an orchestra.
It should noted that when all is said and done, this is the version CKay will be performing alongside his new records as he continues to take Afro-Emo to the world.
In terms of content, the topic of love, lust, commitment, and relationship complications are recurring themes in the album. Sonically, the album carries significant Emo elements of high-pitched melodies and rhythmic guitars which are combined with Afrobeats drum pattern and progression.
In singles such as the R&B record 'Come Closer' and Amapiano hit 'Watawi' both of which are made for easily digestion by Afrobeats consumers, the Emo elements aren't as dominant. Similarly, in both international collaborations, the Emo elements blend into the Latino and Pop sound for mainstream appeal.
To be honest, this is not one of those Nigerian projects where listeners can easily consume all the songs and enjoy them. Most listeners, especially Afrobeats fans will have to settle for tracks that appeal to them.
Overall, 'Sad Romance' is a nice album created with the intention of consolidating CKay's success abroad and reinstating his status has a sound connoisseur in Afrobeats. However, as far as Afrobeats goes, Afro-Emo is not a mainstream sound and it’s uncertain just how much this project can change that.
• 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
Album Sequencing: 1.7/2
Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.5/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.6/2
Total: 8.0 - Victory
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