Here are our first thoughts from Wizkid's 'Made In Lagos' [Pulse Review]
If you play it in a certain mood, you might not like it. If you have certain preferences, you might not like it. But if you listen with an open mind, you will find what's yours.
The first time Wizkid teased 'Made In Lagos' was in a conversation with DJ Semtex in 2018. For the next two years, the Nigerian superstar played took his time to find his way. In the thick of that battle came the 2019 change of guard and the maturation of the Nigerian soundscape.
More than ever before, Made In Lagos had to be good lest it was eerie for the next decade of one of the greatest careers Nigerian music has ever seen.
In July 2020, Wizkid took to his Instagram page to give a vote of thanks to every featured act on the album. Some months later, we finally got a release date of October 15, 2020. It was the same day that 'No Stress' dropped.
But due to the events of EndSARS protests and subtle hints of self-preservation, the album was postponed. But finally, October 29, 2020 sees the release of Nigeria's most anticipated album in five years.
Here are our first thoughts on the album;
1.) It's better than the singles suggest
For a while now, only Wizkid FC has been obsessed with the idea of a supposed lack of flaws in the armour of a legend. But to the rest of the world and the more reasonable neutrals and save for 'Smile,' Wizkid's singles have not exactly been mindblowing.
However, the fan base he worked so hard to earn and the reputation he worked immensely to build over the past decade saw him through with great numbers. He was never going to have bad numbers, he's Wizkid... duh.
But on 'Made In Lagos,' there is an enviable brand of sonic cohesion. The album feels like merging the creative use of horns and guitar chords in Afrobeat with the mid-tempo groove of Afro-swing and Afro-fusion. All the tracks are cut from a different cloth, but they don't exactly sound monotonous as a body of work save for one or two instances.
And at no point did the album wander beyond that tempo. But more interestingly, the production is better, more expansive and structured than on Wizkid's last two bodies of work.
In fact, this writer feels like Made In Lagos is the more resonant version of Soundman Vol. 1. It feels like Wizkid took some lessons from the parched reception that 'Soundman Vol. 1' got outside his fan base and poured it into that's something cut from a similar sound, but weilds greater sonic experience.
The sonic balance of tracks like 'Reckless,' 'Blessed,' 'Essence,' 'Sweet One' and 'Roma' present a compelling case. To Wizkid's credit, he didn't get unnecessarily cocky with the sound. He worked on it and he should be proud. Alongside the brilliant songwriting on 'Smile,' Wizkid's sound on those four tracks are experiential and quite enjoyable.
2.) It's still not great though
As a generation, we like living in black and white. But sadly, most of life exists in the grey. While those aforementioned songs showcased Wizkid and his A&Rs as people with vision, a few tracks on the album see Wizkid fall back into that 'vibe pigeonhole.' Some of those songs are 'Ginger,' 'Mighty Wine,' 'Grace,' and parts of 'No Stress.'
'Gyrate' also feels like a filler. Asides a few instances, Wizkid's songwriting on the project is far from stellar and stellar songwriting is one key ingredient that this album needed. Sometimes, it felt really bland and a lot of times, the songwriting felt insipid.
However, there are a few times as on parts of 'Smile,' 'Essence' and 'Blessings' that the songwriting had some substance. In the current Nigerian dispensation where artists are bringing their A game to the pen front, only an artist of Wizkid's stature can get away with bad songwriting.
But then, even he needs to knock the bad songwriting out... and fast. It's not a sustainable venture. That said, something about 'Made In Lagos' will always distract the average listener or stan away from the flaws of this project.
Sometimes, it will be its creative use of trumpets and saxophones to conjure dreamy melodies or its use of guitar chords to charm the ears.
3.) UK and love focus
'Made In Lagos' is significantly based on themes of love. Sometimes, Wizkid is a grown man falling under the charms of a beautiful woman. Other times, he's like a nervous and shy teenage boy speaking his heart out to the woman of his dreams while stuttering and messing up his words. Awwwnnn...
While a few of these songs will be played at parties, the production on this album suggests that it can be played and enjoyed in any setting. You can play it anywhere, anytime and anyhow you want. Even the boys have the positive vibes of 'Blessings' to savour. And did Skepta give Bankulli a shout-out?
But interestingly, this album feels tailored to obtainable sounds in Africa, the UK and the Caribbean markets. Some songs will be liked in the US, but this is the album that was made by RCA UK for markets that are more Wizkid-friendly and Wizkid-ready.
Those markets are more willing to accommodate the blessings and flaws of Wizkid's overall artistry and it's a smart decision.
4.) Age really well
The thing about this album is that everybody needs to give it time. In fact, tracks like 'Longtime' and 'True Love' sound like the atypical Wizkid records that need time to truly resonate.
While that applies to every other album on the planet, this album might not exactly be appreciated in certain moods. That's not to say it's an acquired taste - it's not.
If you play it in a certain mood, you might not like it. If you have certain preferences, you might not like it. But if you listen with an open mind, you will find what's yours and that's what Wizkid achieved. He's calm... Calmer than he's ever been.
See you at the review...