Sarz is a music production maven in modern Nigerian music; a modern great by all accounts. In December 2016, he came onto this writer’s radar after he was named as one of NME’s 100 Essential artists of 2017. In 2017, he featured on Kojey Radical’s ‘Superhuman.’
Sarz and Obongjayar’s ‘Sweetness’ is a 360 experience in the art of expansive music [Pulse EP Review]
‘Sweetness’ and ‘If You Say’ are two of the best Nigerian songs of 2020 and that’s on...
At the time, he stood out due to his falsetto-esque voice type; like a classically-trained singer, drenched in the spirit of late 70’s and 80’s disco light pop music. A large part of this perception is backed by his sound; an eccentric mesh of enigmatic percussion and synth pop/electropop/electric melodies, synths and progression.
In a way, he’s like something straight out of Grammy-winning Canadian DJ/Producer, Kaytranada’s playbook. While Kaytranada never opens his mouth, Obongjayar stands out for his impeccably articulated topics and his spectacular use of metaphors and symbolisms for picture-esque, effective songwriting.
In a lot of ways, his music always feels like a 360 experience in art.
His 2020 EP, Which Way Forward felt like a transcendence into an outer space art studio in a shanty decorated with dim lights, while fusing the political zen of Fela with the grooves of Orlando Julius, The Heavy, Lagbaja and Jacob Banks and the creative vocal antics of Brymo.
On Sweetness, his latest body of work with Sarz, he goes back to his Kaytranada-esque sound. However, ‘If You Say’ and ‘Nobody’ are more sonically expansive.
It seems cut off from 80's German Alternative Pop acts like Hall of famers, Kraftwerk or even Electroclash/Nu Wave acts like the late great, Cristina. The song wouldn’t have been out of place as a soundtrack to Back To The Future.
‘Nobody’ is more Afro-pop with faded out, underlying Electro strings while 'Gone Girl' is also a fusion of Electroclash with Afro-pop-esque percussion and Synth pop claps.
At the root of the EP is R&B, delivered like if Sampha jumped on an album filled with Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ in multiple forms of Synth Pop. To Sarz’s credit, he goes into uncharted territory that could have swallowed most producers. Instead, Sarz swam and came out of the other side while holding a 72-feet shark.
He melted his world and uniqueness into Obongjayar’s sound and the result is pure greatness. While the EP’s cover art sees a presumably smoking woman sensually downing olives, the EP isn’t all dreamy and sensual. Lyrically, the EP is based around undulating emotional topography.
‘Sweetness’ is filled with promises while ‘Gone Girl’ is an unassuming tale of longing, on which Obongjayar’s voice projected underlying pain. ‘If You Say’ is more tentative as Obongjayar weighs the suitability of a woman to make him ditch his singlehood.
The music is so European yet so relatable because of the Nigerian peculiarities in how Obongjayar pronounces words like “Baby” on ‘If You Say’ or “Zombie” on ‘Gone Girl’ and delivers certain lines like “Nobody do me like you do…” on ‘Nobody.’
While this EP is almost sonically and lyrically perfect, its only real flaws are its length and track sequence. The music lover in most people would have wanted more tracks. As regards sequence, the tracklist should have been;
If You Say
This way, it could have told a simple story; questions lead to a tale of longing and then sweet love on the final two tracks. This bitter-sweet arc could have even aligned with the EP’s title.
Regardless, ‘Sweetness’ and ‘If You Say’ are two of the best Nigerian songs of 2020 and that’s on.
• 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
8.6 - Champion
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