Zlatan's debut album, 'ZANKU' suffers from lack of vision and terrible A&R [Album Review]
The album is a scatterbrained approach to crafting a body of work.
To be fair, this has been the best year of his career. As much as albums have now become of limited importance to Nigerian artists who can keep living off singles, he thankfully still believes in the place of albums. Without a good discography, greatness and impact can be disputed. An album is more than a bunch of songs, it is the proof that an artist can actually create.
To that end, Zlatan needed an album. But more importantly, he needed a good body of work. He worked on it and we had a release date and a track list. But now, it appears like Zlatan should have postponed the release of this album.
It pains me to say this, but this album is a scatterbrained approach to crafting a body of work. I might be wrong, but this album also seems rushed.
It lacks vision and visibly lacks good A&R. Making music is like making a bomb. While making a bomb, you need vision to understand exactly what you need for the carnage you hope to cause. The C4 and other apparatuses have to be perfectly measured. The process of inputting the timers and wires requires incredible care lest the C4 blows in your face.
While making music, you must think of the audience as the place you want to blow up. The process must be intricate and meticulous. When you can't do it on your own, you ask for help - Zlatan didn't do any of that. As good as Kendrick Lamar is, Jay Z was an Executive Producer on Good Kid. Maad City.
Zanku is not entirely Zlatan's fault either - it's the curse of mainstream success. But then, he should have learned - that's what a good team does. When most new Nigerian acts start crafting a string of hits, they get an ego like the rest of us creatives. They start thinking that whatever they create will pop. Sometimes, that's true, but usually, that mentality comes back to bite them in the behind.
Due to his understanding of the rigours of crafting an album, this writer tried not to say this, but facts are facts; Zanku is a subpar album. It's not as bad as this writer first thought it was, but it's still not as good as it could have been.
It seems what Zlatan did was contact a few producers he likes to give him a variety of beats so people won't call him 'Zanku-obsessed.' Zlatan has been pigeonholed to 'Zanku' and this album commendably shows that he at least tries to break that mould. But sadly, breaking a mould requires detail and this album severely lacks it.
Consistently rambling about his rags-to-riches story, constantly trying to jump on pop culture topics with corny songs and hopping on trendy sounds with bland songs show that Zlatan lacks the required mind for 'detail.'
A lack of cohesion
It feels like some songs on Zanku could have been better on their own, but together, they're just a bad idea as an album. That is the issue of a lack of cohesion. When you listen to Burna's African Giant, the singles make even better sense as part of the album.
After listening, you understand that Burna had a sound all along, most people just didn't see it - that is cohesion. Zanku feels very random - like Zlatan just packed a bunch of songs he hopes would pop off and lumped them together on his album. He addressed making an album like he was creating a single.
There are a few bright spots. 'Omo Olope,' Adura Agba,' 'Distracted' 'Love and Gain,' and 'Shotan' are good songs. They're good because they're not just sonically pleasing, they feel natural and organic. Zlatan wasn't trying to be too sleek with them and they clicked.
It's unfortunate that 'Shotan' didn't really pop as a single, but it's still a good song. 'Omo Olope' is possibly the best song on this album. If Zlatan was so desperate to jump on the 'Bolanle' sound, 'Omo Olope' should have been the single not 'Yeye Boyfriend.' For the latter, Zlatan placed a bet on women's opinions of bad partners and it backfired.
'Love and Gain' is a good idea - a trap song for variety. It lacks the vim with which Zlatan massacred 'Kuronbe,' the single by Aristokrat Records rapper, Straffiti, but that beat just about carries Zlatan through.
'Distracted' is good because it's topically and sonically different to anything on Zanku. 'Adura Agba' is just a beautiful song. It is corny, but Barry Jhay's brilliance is just too good to be overlooked.
Songs like 'Sunita,' 'If You No Know,' and 'Yeye Boyfriend' are bad. It's so sad because a good A&R would have either made them better or advised against them. Songs like 'Gbeku,' 'Scopatumana,' 'Compulsory Course,' and 'Ko Easy Worldwide' are very hackneyed and corny ideas. 'Sunita' could also easily fall into this category.
Having 'Zanku,' a 2018 song which soundtracked a dance movement doesn't mean you should create a 2019 song around another dance movement. It reeks of Hollywood's tendency of not knowing when to stop. Asides Burna's hook, 'Gbeku' is flat. 'Zanku (Legwork)' is a catchy song and it dropped just as the dance was about to take off.
'Gbeku' dance hasn't taken off and it was always a risky idea. Frankly, it painted Zlatan as desperate when he has enough talent to just make music. It sadly looks like Zlatan doesn't trust that talent enough to rely on it and here we are. 'Scopatumana' 'Compulsory Course' and 'Ko Easy Worldwide' are basic and corny. You don't have to make music around trendy and colloquial catchphrases.
Olamide might have succeeded, but that's because songs like 'Bobo,' 'Who U Epp,' and so forth were actually good songs. There were corny ideas, but good songs nonetheless. Also, Olamide always had perfect timing to release these songs. 'Scopatumana' went out of style two months ago. 'Compulsory Course' comes on a beat with potential, but the execution of that beat is bad.
It brings us to another issue on Zanku. Zlatan was mostly talking and not rapping. Where is the rapper from 'Oja' or 'Ijaya'?
As funny as this sounds, 'Super Power' might be rough, but it has incredible potential. It is only rough because Zlatan has no good A&R. 'Life' tells a story, but is that story properly told? Maybe not. Its honesty is why a lot of people will like it, but its similarity to Efe's tactics on Big Brother Naija 2017 is why a lot of people will also skip it.
Zlatan needs to learn timing, power of a good team and when to stop
It's easy to say now, but this writer had fears about this album. The fact that Zlatan has a terrible team is evident in his lack of singles for the most part of January to June 2019. When the singles finally started dropping, they didn't work. Asides 'Shotan,' anybody with a brain knew those songs were wrong choices for singles.
'This Year' suffered for being against Zlatan's brand at the time. He needed a lamba/zanku song and we got a song about good fortunes. 'Yeye Boyfriend' and 'Gbeku' reeked of desperation. First, Zlatan needs a good team; A&Rs and PR especially. His brand is a shambles.
Zanku is what happens when you try to do too much by yourself. Even the most talented and greatest music makers in the world know when to seek help. When Kanye West wanted to make what became 'Stronger,' he delayed the song because he couldn't find the right kick-drum. Timbaland finally played it for him and what we now know as 'Stronger' is a 12th version.
On the music side, Zlatan needs to unshackle himself and just make music. He should then trust his team to make music that suits his brand. 90% of the time, trying to replicate popular songs/sounds and jumping on catchphrases backfires. Zlatan should have known.
If you are going to jump on a trendy topic, let the song be good and timely. It could still backfire, but at least you would have done things right. When you have talent, make music that's true to you, speak from the heart and tell stories.
If you are introducing your audience to 10 songs, six of them don't have to be naturally catchy. If they are good, they will pop. You can make two or three single-worthy songs. You can then take creative risks with the final track. On Zanku, there is also an excessive reliance on Zlatan's rag to riches stories. About six songs discuss that story - that's excessive.
However, the arrangement (track listing) of songs on this album is not bad.
• 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
Track listing: 1.1/2
Content and Themes: 0.5/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 0.6/2
4.0 - Average
JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!
Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: