Tiwa Savage is the grundnorm of African female pop stardom. Over the past 10 years, she has transcended and succeeded in a male-dominated space, picking her moments and celebrating her wins.
Tiwa Savage has a secret formula for making quality EPs, that’s why you should play ‘Water and Garri’ [Pulse Review]
Women can borrow from the authenticity of this music and they should listen to it. Men can also learn about the effects of their manipulative tendencies.
But over the past few years, that run has been shaky. And it culminated in her 2020 album, Celia. Although it possesses its positives, it felt like the product of overcompetitiveness and excessive label influence. It felt like the label’s perception of what Savage is, was at loggerheads with what Savage should be and the album suffered for it.
On August 20, 2021, the superstar released Water and Garri, a five-track experience which marks Savage’s entry into her graceful years; a place with reduced overcompetitiveness, where only her own rules apply. The era of ‘Celia’ is over and in its place is duality; Savage as ‘Garri,’ a Nigerian consumable, who calls on featured artistes from across the world - they represent the ‘Water.’
Meaning: Water is a universal element.
The meaning of ‘graceful years’
‘Graceful years’ mark the period after an artist's ‘hustle phase.' By that time, his/her ‘superstardom’ has been established, he/she has racked up the hits and proved mettle with standout moments. For some artists, that transition is natural, while others have to realize their need for transition. But most people never get there.
In an artist’s ‘graceful years,’ he/she finds a space where nobody plays, creates his/her own rules and operates in it. Beyonce has been there over the past five years. Wizkid has slowly been there over the past three years while Olamide has moved into that phase over the past two years.
Those years also come with a rebrand; sonically and aesthetically. For Beyonce, she became more open about her life as a wife and mother, offering insights into her sex life while celebrating the essence of her blackness. Wizkid and Olamide have become more reclusive, using social media sparingly and only talking when necessary.
The music has also become calmer, different and more methodical. They move with grace and walk the talk of enviable elegance. They are still stars, but they aren’t just stars anymore, they are OGs. They walk into a place and everybody wants to catch their glance.
Back to Tiwa Savage…
When ‘Celia’ was released, it was obvious that Ms. Savage and her label still tried to play the ‘popstar card,’ with a mindset for hits, when she should have been transcending, to become something bigger; more enviable; something larger than just a ‘popstar.’
‘Water and Garri’ is a necessity. And kudos to Tiwa Savage, it’s a supremely successful one. She has learned, she has grown and she has stepped into her graceful years. The music is experimental, yet assured and incredibly impressive, with high-calibre replay value. It also possesses top-shelf musicality and authentic topics, that were often missing from the pop-driven ‘Celia.’
‘Tales By Moonlight,’ which is her choice for a single, marks a switch. The selected genres are expansive, informative and pungent. More importantly, Tiwa Savage excels both sonically and topically. She is also more mature, clear-eyed and vulnerable on this EP than ever before.
At the centre of the music is an appraisal of pain from years of heartbreak. But she uses sensitive songs like ‘Somebody’s Son’ and ‘Ade Ori,’ to underline how even strong, successful women need love and romance. Her vocals also adequately project the emotion of those topics.
As she reminds an ex-lover of what he’s missing on ‘Ade Ori’ she - through her story - also keenly reminds women that love/men should not define them.
She sings, “No need to smoke a J to make myself smile again… I can heal my pain, I don’t need you…”
The equivalent of Tiwa Savage’s line around smoking a joint to cope with pain on ‘Ade Ori,’ is Beyonce admitting to having sex with Jay Z on her kitchen floors on ‘Drunk In Love.’
These insights are like stargazing for attentive fans, who don’t just listen to projects for ‘hits.’ There is also the commendable production that powers ‘Water and Garri’ as well as the backing vocals employed on ‘Ade Ori’ and ‘Work Fada.’
‘Ade Ori’ deserves to have a video which recreates Tunji Oyelana’s performance on classic Mainframe flick, Thunderbolt [Magun].
This is a world where most people will falter. It’s kudos to Savage’s vision and that of her team that her lyrical delivery, flow schemes and topical conversation match the beauty of records like ‘Work Fada’ and ‘Ade Ori.’
The Folksy Afro-Futuristic sounds of ‘Work Fada’ should be a shoo-in for Record of The Year at the 2022 Headies. It should also be a frontrunner for the Best Global Music Performance at the 2022 Grammy Awards - the record is just that incredible.
Sonically, ‘Water and Garri’ is Savage’s best body of work. It’s just a shame that it’s only five tracks long. On this kind of form and making this type of music, Savage should have given fans 10 tracks, at least.
In its essence, ‘Water and Garri’ reminds of the attraction of romance [Somebody’s Son] and the non-definitiveness of love or heartbreak [Ade Ori]. The EP feels like a roar of resurgence or even a battle cry, while healing from battle - read *love and heartbreak* - scars. It’s also a tale of finding power in self and in hustle [Work Fada].
Savage pours her heart out, wears her pain and scars as a badge of honour for her femininity, and discusses the true situations around her life in her music.
That line, “Tired of getting it wrong, this won’t be another heartbreak song” on ‘Somebody’s Son’ is powerful to signal her healing, as she forges ahead. She has found success and now forges ahead to find love, despite being hardened by love.
Women can borrow from the authenticity of this music and they should listen to it. A record like 'Tales By Moonlight' underlines the power that lies in a woman's ability to own her sexuality. Men can also learn about the effects of their manipulative tendencies.
The beauty of this EP is how Savage sounds like a proper Nigerian woman. She discusses her pain, denounces men but still craves the warmth of romance on ‘Somebody’s Son,’ the nucleus of this EP. It’s cute and adorable.
First off, ‘Special Kinda’ should have been track four while ‘Somebody’s Son’ sits at track five. This way, ‘Somebody’s Son’ marks her healing as she forges ahead. ‘Special Kinda’ as the final track is sonically progressive, but it follows a similar trope of dealing with pain and the inadequacies of a relationship ‘Ade Ori’ and ‘Tales By Moonlight,’ while ‘Somebody’s Son’ looks forward. It would have been a fitting end.
Her features did great, but Brandy as the featured act on ‘Somebody’s Son’ only achieves sonic goals, not strategic. The video Savage posted on her Instagram page also underlines the emotional process of making the record, but music should be as much about strategy as it is about sonics.
‘Somebody’s Son’ needed a Simi feature, not a Brandy feature. With Simi, the relatability of the song would have been much higher, as Nigerian women - dealing with years of heartbreak - would have lapped it up. This record has anthemic potential for women and even at weddings.
Brandy delivered spectacularly - she’s Brandy, duh… The record also tells her story, in a way. But something different was needed. If push came to shove, ‘Somebody’s Son’ should have had an international and an African version, featuring Brandy and Simi respectively. Nonetheless, the record might still break out with a Brandy feature, it's just that resonant.
As for the artwork, the pictures weren’t suitable to represent the duality. They were aesthetically pleasing, but the art for this EP should have simply been water in a bowl and garri on the other side, partitioned by a black line.
Vocally, the use of auto-tune and vocoders also gets too excessive sometimes. However, a record like ‘Ade Ori’ is Electro Soul while ‘Tales By Moonlight’ features Amaarae’s famous falsetto, so the tuned out vocals are kinda on-brand, but Miguel delivered Electro Soul on ‘Adorn’ with clearer vocals. Sometimes, the effects made it hard to follow what Savage is actually saying.
Some people are saying that ‘Water and Garri’ doesn’t have typical Afro-pop hits - whatever that means, but this is what Tiwa Savage needs at this time. This is an OG move and this is Savage moving by her own rules, damn the popular views and I endorse it. Everything else doesn’t matter as much.
She will reap the fruit of this EP over the coming years. The last time Savage made an EP was Sugarcane and it was equally beautiful. Welcome back, Ms. Savage.
• 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: 1.62
Themes and Delivery: 1.8/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.8/2
8.6 - Champion
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