Yemi Alade’s music has always been polarizing. She soars as an act, but her albums could never follow the great vibes her singles generate.
ALSO READ: Pulse reviews Yemi Alade's 'Black Magic'
Her artistry as a triple threat is definitely not in question, but cynics sometimes unfairly project their thoughts of her music on her artistry. Across Africa, her popularity and fan base soar almost daily, but her albums have never been immune to criticism from Nigerians.
Yemi Alade is very calculative and ambitious - that's why she's here today. Nigeria was never enough for her, so she always made music with pan-African appeal. It became a plus that endeared her to other parts of Africa and she became a star.
However, some of the music she made could simply not resonate with Nigerians. So it got criticized - sometimes, unfairly so. That said, some of those songs/albums were also pretty bad.
Black Magic was a bloated drawl on which Yemi tried to do too much. This saturation overshadowed the few positives on the album. Mama Africa was a worse album which houses very few positives. King of Queens was a mixed album slightly betrayed by bad judgement and cynicism.
The criticism she copped for her lyrics was always nonsensical. On terrible lyrics, we give a free pass to her male counterparts all the time.
But this time with her fourth album, Woman of Steel, it seems she finally has an undeniably good album. It is not excellent, but it's very close. For one, it’s shorter, more digestible and more enjoyable. She again makes music for different African markets, where she now has a foothold. But unlike on previous albums, the songs are more enjoyable.
The first four tracks that launch Woman of Steel are absolutely gorgeous - oh, my ovaries. On the guitar melodies of a typical soukous music from francophone Africa, Alade crafts ‘Night and Day.’ The song showcases every good thing about Yemi Alade’s ability to generate feel-good vibes.
‘Home’ is the single that cut from Nigerian hi-life. The lyrics are mostly coherent as Yemi Alade makes you move with a love song. If her male counterparts make ‘wash' that we hail, this is her solemn offering to the movement and it is beautiful.
The legendary Duncan Mighty features on ‘Shake,’ a song that will likely be underrated. In a way, it sounds like Tekno's ‘Pana.' Its topical base is a little elusive, but the beat is seriously sick and Yemi again finds the appropriate vibe for it.
The Krizbeatz-produced ‘Give Dem’ is this writer’s favourite song on Woman of Steel. It feels like the song got made for three continents.
The opening melodies feel very latin, yet the percussion is very afrobeats and the guitars on the hook are Arabian/Persian/Indian. Nonetheless, it’s a party song for all intents and purposes. The line, ‘Omo nor be game o, nor be Ali Bomaye’ is a solid bar. However, Krizbeatz should have repeated the opening trumpets on the hook.
‘Vibe’ is not as sonically appealing as the first four tracks. But lyrically, it’s very impressive as it shows Yemi Alade as a sexually liberated woman.
The hooks goes, “I want a boy wey go love me scatter, wey nor go knock before e enter, wey go love me pass him sister, give me brain make I mental… Me wanna sit down pon the mic…” These are some interesting wishes. Whoever accepts these requests is a luck man. Have you seen Yemi?
One cannot escape the feeling that ‘Vibe’ would have been better with a feature like Yung L or Santi. After this, we have some questionable and polarizing songs.
‘Yeba’ is cut off hi-life music from the Eastern and Southern parts of Nigeria. The story is about Yemi’s rejection of marriage proposals from two broke guys; Tunde and Nnamdi. It’s very relatable with picture-esque storytelling, but a few people will feel it’s a filler track and they will have a point.
‘Remind You’ is another good example of impressive songwriting, but it simply shouldn’t have made this album. It's too different to the overall sound of the album and it sticks out.The next track, ‘Nobody’ sounds like a watered down version of Wizkid’s ‘Sweet Love,’ but it also shouldn’t have made this album.
‘Shekere’ gets us back on track. Nigerians will love this song for the nostalgia they might feel, but it’s also very pan-African and might resonate better with other African markets. The legendary Angelique Kidjo contributes her quota and aids Alade’s cause. The story on the album is ubiquitous, but the vibes are good.
‘Poverty’ is a pro-wealth tune that might resonate with a few Nigerian pastors as Yemi Alade denounces poverty wants wealth. Again, it represents Alade’s calculative tendencies as she tries to connect with the Nigerian mainstream. If she can get this music across to them, she could have a hit. However, this writer thinks its beat could have been better.
A lot of Nigerians forget or don’t realize that Yemi Alade can really sing. If they listen, they will know on ‘Lai Lai,’ as ‘Mama Africa’ becomes a wide-eyed dreamer who accepts her lover despite his humble account balance. With him, she also dreams of a bigger, better life.
The beat is a blend of R&B and afrobeats. Before the end, Yemi also flexes her vocal muscles. Je’onmo!
‘Somto’ feels like a freestyle and with this beat, Yung Willis really gave us. Alade absolutely rips that hook with her vibes. ‘CIA’ is Yemi Alade’s socio-political chatter on wax. ‘CIA’ means the self-explanatory ‘Criminal In Agbada.’ It is a well-written dig at the Nigerian political elite running the country ragged.
‘Poverty’ gets a Swahili version and ‘Oh My Gosh (Remix)’ featuring Rick Ross round up the album.
Yemi not only makes music for different markets, Woman of Steel is topically expansive with much better songwriting. It addresses a myriad of topics that affect different people at different stages of their lives.
It seems Yemi Alade wants to touch everybody with something. If love doesn’t touch you, anti-poverty will. If not, the socio-political critique on ‘CIA’ will get you. The topics will affect different people differently.
Sometimes, the beat and lyrics trump each other. But for the most part, they are at par for excellence. Lyrically, Yemi falters a few times, but we make cases for Davido and Wizkid. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t be afforded the same luxury. After all, her lyrics are not even as bad as Wizkid's.
In totality, Woman of Steel is Yemi Alade’s best album yet. It is filled with relatable topics as previously risque beat choices become accessible. The album is also Yemi Alade’s greatest case to be understood. If you're calm and fair enough, you will get her.
Artists are different and there’s no one rule to judge all artists. One thing we can do is be fair with songs and be as logical as possible with even the most scathing of criticism. In equal measure, we should award deserved accolades when deserved.
While the track list and organization on Woman of Steel could have been better, Yemi Alade has earned an accolade with Woman of Steel. Again, there will be cynics, but this time, there should be more fans than critics.
• 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
Content and Themes: 1.7/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.3/2
6.9 - Victory