Like Lumberjacks, Like Teni's debut, 'Wondaland' [Pulse Album Review]

The album crests on Teni’s ability to stretch her topical conversations aboard great beats.

ALBUM REVIEW: Like Lumberjacks, Like Teni's debut, 'Wondaland.' (Dr. Dolor)

While they peaked in the 90’s, Lumberjack [style] have never been out of style. While they might not be as popular as they were in the 80’s or 90’s Flannels/Lumberjack shirts are currently as trendy as they’ve ever been. This reality is quite similar to Headies-winning Nigerian artist, Teni’s career.

About four years ago, Teni became a social media sensation whose antics and comic skits were likened to Falz’s. She then released ‘Amen,’ ‘Fargin,’ ‘Wait’ and ‘Askamaya’ in 2016/2017 before her stupendous 2018 run culminated in the riveting, ‘Uyo Meyo.’

2019 saw a string of lukewarm releases and a subpar EP which then produced the groundbreaking smash, ‘Billionaire.’

She followed it up with the amazing Billionaire concert. After an uncertain 2019 battle with COVID-19 and Quarantine Playlist which sailed under the radar, Teni looked to have hit a snag with ‘Jo’ only to return with ‘For You’ featuring Davido, which topped Turntable Top 50 for weeks.

Like a lumberjack, Teni’s popularity might not be at an all-time high, but she never goes out of style.

Her belated debut album, Wondaland which dropped on March 19, 2021 also follows a similar trope. It meanders between what threatens Teni with a creative and critical plateau of indifference and what made Teni a star and Nigeria’s Afro-pop heartthrob in the first place. It then crests on Teni’s ability to stretch her topical conversations aboard great beats.

Across 17-tracks, Teni largely reverberates her heavy pop leaning, which sometimes screams ‘Cliche!’ while she also retained her alluring delivery, that only a few possess.

However, Wondaland also has a sonic range. For all the significant Afro-pop leaning, Teni explores Ballad on two incredible records, ‘Maja’ and ‘Black,’ Trap on ‘Toxic,’ Afro-Fusion on the beautiful ‘Injure Me,’ Pop on ‘XXXL’ and Alternative on ‘Were.’

Away from the genre diversity, Teni’s debut also excels on the range of its tracks’ BPMs, to offer everybody something. But that tendency saturates the album with a cliche like ‘Were,’ which seems so ‘2018 Teni’ and should have simply been left out. ‘Jo’ makes sense from a streaming strategy perspective, but it’s still as terrible a song in March 2021 as it was in December 2020.

‘Wondaland’ might largely speak about love on impressive records like ‘Wonda Why’ and ‘FBI’ but those topics of love have range. To each of those topics, there are hints of acceptance of self, acceptance of the task at hand and growth to Teni. ‘Maja’ uses self-love to project determination and defiance in the face of riveting critique.

Dad’s Song’ sees Teni expatiate on something she briefly touched in the final moments of ‘Uyo Meyo’ - her late dad, Chief Olaosebikan Apata, who passed when Teni was three years old.

While Teni simply eulogized him from a place of pain in those final moments of ‘Uyo Meyo,’ she accepts the loss on ‘Dad’s Song.’ She sings that she is no longer afraid because she knows that her dad is with her. She is also driven to carry on her father’s legacy, which is philanthropy.

Lyrically, ‘XXXL’ is the most important on this album. For the first time, Teni addresses her weight and cultural conversations around it. On a pop beat with range and backing vocals from Pheelz, Teni contributes her quota to the ongoing conversations around body positivity and acceptance of self.

Like Katy Perry did on ‘Fireworks’ in 2012 with the help of Max Martin and Dr. Luke, Teni does hers with the help of Pheelz. She defiantly accepts herself with the declaration, “It’s okay to be different, it’s okay to be you. Fat or skinny, tall or short, tall or short... Welcome to my XXX life…

While ‘XXXL’ has an incredible hook and the verses have weight, Teni’s delivery of the verses isn’t as alluring. On a song with such a powerful theme, her verses were slightly bungled and Teni needed more soul in her delivery.

You know when Lucious Lyon said, “Sing like you are about to die tomorrow…” to that girl in the first scene of EMPIRE, Teni needed somebody to tell her that. She sold the hook, but failed to sell the most important part of the song; her verses. That Disco guitar at 1:20 is fire though!

While Teni has previously addressed sex on old tracks like ‘Fargin’ and ‘Askamaya,’ Quarantine Playlist with DJ Neptune saw Teni address sex with detail and more importantly gender fluidity and LGBTQ references. On ‘Morning,’ Teni seemed to admire a woman, her love for this woman and sex with her.

For all the good themes, love-themed topics and juxtapositions, Teni also largely addresses sex and celebrates her sexual prowess with occasional gender fluidity/LGBTQ tendencies.

For every mushy love song like ‘For You,’ there is a raunchy record like ‘Toxic,’ on which Teni celebrates her sexual prowess, discusses her commitment issues, emotional unavailability, philanderous tendencies and toxic attitude to love. She sings, “Nor go catch feelings, coz omo na you know…

‘Moslado’ might be cliche. But in these moments, when Teni is on her ‘one-take god’/freestyle grind, the traits which made her a star shine through. She eulogizes her sexual prowess, she hilariously calls herself names, “Eru omo eru, egbe omo egbe, Teni power ranger…

Like she did on ‘Morning,’ Teni seemed to create ‘Moslado’ and ‘Toxic’ with gender fluidity/LGBTQ references. At some point on ‘Toxic,’ Teni sings that, “I get many many problems, I get problems with commitment, I no fit dey with one w[hm]…

On ‘Injure Me,’ Teni also sings about sex by telling her partner that, “All you have to do is open, close…

Logic suggests that only women have to open and close their laps for sex, no?

This reality is in line with our current post-modernist reality. On her debut album, The Angel You Don’t Know, Amaarae did the same thing while American singer, Frank Ocean also did the same thing on records like ‘Forrest Gump’ before he eventually came out in the early 2010s.

At the root of it all, Teni simply accepts herself and simply wants to be herself. This forms the basis of ‘Black.’

Pheelz’s range is starting to scare this writer. From a production perspective, ‘Wondaland,’ - on which he also produced backing vocals - is another crowning moment for this maven of contemporary Nigerian music.

One of his beats produced ‘Hustle,’ the best song on this album and one of the best Nigerian songs of 2021 so far.

Alongside ‘ON,’ it was a rare moment which saw Teni sing from the soul, her emotion and deliver a momentous record about the pressures of success, detraction, mental health and more. Take a bow for this record, Teni. In fact, take a beer on my tab anywhere… They know me.

For the record, ‘Hustle’ is closely followed by the Amapiano-Fusion record, ‘ON.’

First off, this album is too long. At least, tracks like ‘Were,’ ‘Jo’ and ‘Okocha’ should have been cut off for other purposes. Secondly, ‘100 Metres’ would have been better off with a Tekno or Kizz Daniel assist while ‘ON’ required an Oxlade or a Dunnie feature.

Thirdly, people who call this album ‘trash’ simply didn’t listen or they listened and simply employed superlative descriptions. ‘Wondaland’ has some gems and reasonable replay value. Some people might be constipated on Teni’s style. But in its essence, that style produced impressive records like ‘FBI,’ ‘Moslado’ and ‘Hustle.’

‘Wondaland’ is a good debut album, but the terrible reception from the audience is subtly due to the horrible pre-album promotional strategy that Teni’s team employed - take note, this also happened to Kizz Daniel’s King Of Love. Their strategy was too lazy, elitist, laidback and excessively social media-based.

Teni is a mainstream artist, you can’t rely on her star power to carry her belated debut in 2021 - it’s not 2018/2019 anymore when her stock was sky high. Teni’s largest fan base lives in mainstream circles, where people can’t afford data. How were they reached? Less than 20% of Nigeria uses Instagram and less than 25% have Facebook accounts.

Where was the pre-album branding? Yes, they did a series titled My XXXL Life, but that didn’t work. They should have done something else.

Where is the pre-album story around such a belated album? Why was it not force-fed to social media users - whom her team excessively focused on? Why is there no nexus tying this album?

At different points on ‘Wondaland,’ it feels like Teni’s A&Rs simply focused on finding great beats and relied on her talent to do the rest. Any solid A&R who actually knows music would have urged Teni to record a song like ‘XXXL’ again because that song deserved better.

This album already battled the cloud of an incredibly belated release because Teni blew in the middle of our soundscape’s awkward transition from a singles market to an album/EP market. It didn’t help that Billionaire EP was underwhelming.

Ratings: /10

• 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: 1.4/2

Songwriting, Themes and Delivery: 1.3/2

Production: 1.6/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2

Execution: 1.3/2

Total:

7.0 - Victory

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

Top 5 films about filmmaking any filmmaker of budding filmmaker must see

Top 5 films about filmmaking any filmmaker of budding filmmaker must see

Grammy Academy CEO reveals ongoing consideration for Afrobeats category

Grammy Academy CEO reveals ongoing consideration for Afrobeats category

Rising Nigerian star, Don Vs shares debut album, 'Child Benefit'

Rising Nigerian star, Don Vs shares debut album, 'Child Benefit'

Bad Boy Timz, Pheelz, Olamide, and BNXN feature on Fifa 23 soundtrack

Bad Boy Timz, Pheelz, Olamide, and BNXN feature on Fifa 23 soundtrack

Leave our sister alone - - Family raises alarm over actor Halima Abubakar’s deteriorating health, calls out Apostle Suleman

"Leave our sister alone" - - Family raises alarm over actor Halima Abubakar’s deteriorating health, calls out Apostle Suleman

Raving sensation Tolu Mogul features super talented Minz in new single 'What dey sup'

Raving sensation Tolu Mogul features super talented Minz in new single 'What dey sup'

Erigga: The Lost Boy [Pulse Interview]

Erigga: The Lost Boy [Pulse Interview]

Fast rising skit maker Funny Bros talks inspiration, collaborations & finding balance

Fast rising skit maker Funny Bros talks inspiration, collaborations & finding balance

BIC partners with Afropop Star Yemi Alade

BIC partners with Afropop Star Yemi Alade

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox

Welcome to the Pulse Community! We will now be sending you a daily newsletter on news, entertainment and more. Also join us across all of our other channels - we love to be connected!