Three years ago, Adekunle Gold took the next step in his storied career: he switched the brand. Although he found success with hits like ‘Something Different,’ ‘PAMI,’ ‘AG Baby’ and ‘Okay,’ while his accompanying album, Afro Pop Vol. 1, got an album of the year nod at the 2020 Headies, the real crowning moment of that transition was ‘High’ featuring Davido.
‘Catch Me If You Can’ is the intersection between ‘Adekunle Gold’ and ‘Bad Boy Deks’ [Pulse Album Review]
The album also projects ‘Bad Boy Deks’ as the maturation of ‘AG Baby.’
People got so ‘High’ off adlibs, a great chorus and amazing quotables, they forgot their doubt and cynicism towards his transformation. After his initial stylistic transformation, he was AG Baby - which would have been a better title for ‘Afro Pop Vol. 1.’ But since ‘High,’ he has become Bad Boy Deks: a snide potpourri of panache, gusto, personality, love, family and sex. He is also more muscular, more confident and carefree.
If he was a butterfly, ‘Before You Wake Up’ would be the egg, AG Baby would be the larva, while ‘Bad Boy Deks’ would be the adult. ‘Afro Pop Vol. 1’ is one of this writer’s favorite albums ever, but it was a concealer: a flimsy lyrical dalliance in the oft-shabby art of pop. Coming from his Folk/Traditional Pop side, he wanted or needed to fit into the pop stereotype, that he reduced the potency of his songwriting, for a more digestible pop element.
Of course, this wasn’t exactly apparent in 2020. ‘Afro Pop Vol. 1’ was a psychedelic experience in futuristic Afro-infused electronic sonics, and Adekunle Gold found the right flows to compliment those sounds. Thus, people didn’t really notice the slight deficiency in content and depth on the album, until now. Comparatively, he was saying a lot, but he wasn’t exactly saying much. But records like ‘AG Baby’ and ‘Okay’ were instructive.
Hence, ‘Afro Pop Vol. 1’ was just one step in his journey towards pop stardom. He hadn’t really found his identity or his confidence to experiment, express and showcase personality. On his latest album, Catch Me If You Can, he finds all that is missing, and balances everything out. It is a 360 experience in the intersection and conflict between Adekunle Gold and Bad Boy Deks.
This is his most honest and most revealing album till date. It documents the three sides to his story: the dreamer, the doer and the achiever - where he is now. The previous albums were mostly generalistic perspectives of flimsy appraisal of self. But this time, he offers unique insights into the inner workings of himself, as a pop star.
Bad Boy Deks
‘Bad Boy Deks’ is the pop star, whom Simi introduced on ‘Mercy,’ with the lines, “AG Baby no dey worry worry o. Bad Boy Deks no dey worry worry o…”
Those lines are also instructive and insightful. On his new album, he is ‘Bad Boy Deks,’ a full popstar: confident, cocky, eloquent and a little vain, as he articulates his braggadocio without remorse; takes swipes at his detractors and constantly reminds everybody that he earned the right to be here.
On ‘Win,’ he takes a swipe at his haters and gives himself a big up for not quitting, before he declares his intent to simply win.
On ‘Born Again,’ he sings that, “Now I don taste freedom won da mimo/I’m a new man forget what you know/Now I don find my voice, I go talk my shit now/Deal with it, I don’t answer to nobody, time to live/Na me dey run my company, follow my need or go go/Motherland or overseas, I know that I can count on me…”
On the title-track, he sings that, “Took me for granted, they’re disappointed/I’m on a rise now, they feel haunted… Catch me if you can, you know I’m the man, you already know where I stand… You know I’m in demand…”
If he was minding his business on tracks like ‘AG Baby’ while he solely focused on himself, he is often confrontational on ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ On the title-track, he also takes a swipe at sections of critical media and confirmed his transition from ‘AG Baby’ to ‘Bad Boy Deks’ with the line, “AG Baby, I’m on the move…”
If he mostly focuses on himself on ‘Okay,’ he does that at the expense of haters on ‘It Is What It Is.’
With his sense of belonging, he found his own unique popstar traits, created by his own rules. Some of those traits might align with the known popstar stereotype, but it also brims with a sense of difference.
Thus at other times, he is Adekunle Gold: warm, nurturing, romantic, reflective and sentimental.
First off, he gives a nod to star signs on ‘Selah.’ He also reflects on his journey with a sentimental edge on the riveting ‘Born Again,’ as he sings that, “When I clocked 30, it dawned on me: I’ve been living for people but me/Such a shame I didn’t get it sooner, but better late than never…”
He also sings that, “All I do is work hard and pray/They say I made it overnight, I hustle to get it right/So hard I never get it wrong…” on the eclectic ‘Catch Me If You Can.’
While his exterior is seemingly carefree on ‘Win,’ he still gives his fans a shout-out for changing his life. He rounds off the album by referring to his come up as a “miracle.”
Beneath the exterior also lies a deep family orientation. He gives a shout-out to his mom on ‘Win,’ and delivers the highly resonant line, “I’m blessed with Adejare/[Simi] I dey prosper eh…”
Most people can be sentimental, but Adekunle Gold particularly recognizes important things in a fast-paced world - especially because he realizes that money doesn’t bring happiness, as he reveals on ‘It Is What It Is.’
He also constantly defers to a supreme being: God. ‘Born Again’ is a double entendre: a nod to his strong Christian leaning and a nod to his transformation as an artist. The overall concept of the devil on ‘Mase Mi,’ or miracles, prayers and blessing references on the title-track are a nod to thematic Christianity.
Then, tracks like ‘One Woman,’ a reverberating pro-Yoruba man nod to monogamy, in a world which constantly pegs them as demons; ‘More Than Enough,’ ‘Sinner,’ ‘Sleep’ and ‘Dior’ represent warmth, in reference to the purity of teen-esque love. Then ‘FYE’ is a chilling chronicle of monogamous, heterosexual love-making.
This album also juxtaposes positions: Bad Boy Deks, the confident, reflective and cocky man, who's earned the right vs. Adekunle Gold, the man who loves love and monogamy, his daughter, sex and the fast life. He's a reluctant hedonist, who wants to talk his shit like a rapper - as reflected by his album title - and dweller in vanity.
At the nucleus of the album is the torrent juxtaposition of ‘Born Again.’ It weighs both sides to the artist: the sentimental reflection and the star, who uses instances of - passive - braggadocio to remind everybody of his place. The perfect opening track, it gives listeners a taste of what to expect. The closing track does the same, but not with the opener’s perfect subtlety and perfection - possibly due to the confrontational element.
Nonetheless, ‘Mase Mi’ is the most important track on this album. For all the vanity, hedonism, love, sex, family and ego on this album, he uses that track to prevent himself from getting carried away. “Esu mase mi” is Yoruba for, “Devil, don’t use me…”
Interestingly, it comes after the juxtaposition of ‘Born Again’ and the desire to ‘Win.’ With its position on the album and the tracks before it, it almost feels like Gold’s reality check to himself.
FYI: 'Mase Mi' interpolates a classic Ebenezer Obey record.
To win or get nominated for a Grammy, Wizkid, Burna Boy and King Sunny Ade have shown the way. And at different points on ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ Adekunle Gold’s approach subtly reveals his Grammy dreams.
The mid-tempo, minimalist feel of tracks like ‘Mercy,’ ‘Win’ and ‘Mase Mi,’ as well as the constant use of horns sound out distant Wizkid/Made In Lagos echoes. If Tay Iwar featured on fan favorite, 'True Love,' he produces 'Sleep' on Gold's new album.
However, some of Gold’s tracks have their own uniqueness: mostly chord progression. This isn't Wizkid’s chord progression. Gold also uses guitar to perfection. The closing seconds of 'FYE,' for example, strike a chord.
In the same vein, Gold’s choice of themes have better songwriting, but ‘Made In Lagos’ follows a similar approach: ego, ‘I don’t bother anybody,’ ‘I love my family,’ and all that.
Opening his album by a Grammy nominee, Fatoumata Diawara’s record isn’t dissimilar to Burna Boy’s Youssou Ndour move for his Twice As Tall opener. Gold’s eclectic closer, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ is very different from ‘Bank On It,’ but both tracks share similar eclectic, ethereal tendencies, especially in their closing moments.
Gold retains the Folk/Traditional Pop edge with not just his sample of Ms. Diawara’s music on his opener, but by sampling another Grammy nominee Sunny Ade’s ‘Esu Biri Biri’ on his closer. Alongside the Afrobeat-infused sonics on ‘Mercy’ or the Highlife-esque sonics on ‘More Than Enough,’ this album will easily tick all the boxes for the World Music Album criterion.
This man really does study the game.
Essentially, this is an R&B/Pop album. In its R&B moments, Gold excels greatly.
Sonically, this album is incredibly cohesive. The production on ‘Afro Pop Vol. 1’ might be one for the history books, but this album finds a different way to produce quality sound.
However, records like ‘Win,’ ‘Mercy’ and ‘Mase Mi’ were slightly too minimalistic either in chorus or by way of production - they lack balance. All the records are above average, but Adekunle is a pop star now, which means different rules apply. He introduced fans to the beauty of balance on ‘High,’ ‘AG Baby’ and ‘Okay.’
He continues that trend with the balance of ‘More Than Enough,’ ‘FYE’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ Now, fans have a certain expectation of him and his music, and it’s mostly subconscious. Thus, records like ‘Win,’ ‘Mercy’ and ‘Mase Mi’ might be too simple for a lot of fans by formation or production.
The fact that three of them are in the opening five tracks might put some fans off. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why they are arranged in that manner: the opening five tracks are of the same sonic cloth. Topically, they also introduce the album in a progressive manner, with segues. For example, ‘Mase Mi’ is the perfect topical follow up to ‘Born Again’ and ‘Win.’
But as much as topical and sonic cohesion and progression are guaranteed by the current album sequence, the opening six tracks need more excitement beyond ‘One Woman.’
The album sequence would have been better this way;
More than Enough
It Is What It Is
Catch Me If You Can
This way, his topical and sonic cohesion/progression would have been guaranteed, while excitement would have also aided the experience for every listener. The last album that had this issue was Fireboy’s Apollo. It also comes alive at track six.
• 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: 1.3/2
Songwriting, Themes and Delivery: 1.8/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.7/2
7.8 - Victory
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