Davido — How Long feat. Tinashe

Artist: Davido
Song: How Long featuring Tinashe
Label, Year: Sony Music Entertainment, 2016

Davido and Tinashe on cover art for 'How Long'
Davido and Tinashe on cover art for 'How Long'

When was the last time you heard Davido actually sing? No, ‘Money,’ his song with Olamide, doesn’t count.

You will need some time on this one and you may still not come up much. Even if the bar was lowered, the love song ‘Ekuro’ from his debut album wouldn’t qualify. The new song ‘How Long,’ taken from his Son of MercyEP, should, however, qualify.

There are two possible reasons why Davido is singing—at least what passes for Davido singing that is—on this new song. The first is he has an actual singer on the song. Tinashe, the American R&B singer, is his accomplice, and he has to measure up in some way, auto-tuned or not.

The other reason is the deal with Sony. There is a conscious bid to break Nigerian music in the US or, at the minimum, work towards some kind of integration. At the moment Wizkid and Davido are at the front of this push. They are said to have received major figures to ensure this breakthrough. What this means is that some compromise will have to be reached. In other words, either the American sound would shape to accommodate these guys. Or these guys would have to do some conforming.

So far it is mostly the Nigerian artists conforming. Take Wizkid. He got a brief, almost inaudible part on Drake’s ‘One Dance’. The consolation was that the production of the song bore a bit of the imprint of Nigerian pop. His next major collaboration was with Chris Brown, Trey Songz and company on 'Shabba remix'. That song was almost scrubbed clear of the familiar, multi-melody spinning Wizkid. The entire song sounds different, like Wizkid is ttrying to dwell in the presumed rarefied realm of American pop stardom. The result was a happy-for-you reaction by his Nigerian fans instead of a must-listen-and-dance response.

Davido’s song will escape that fate, if only because he gets his American collaborator to sing in Yoruba—a well-meaning stretch even if Tinashe's father is Zimbabwean. At least the Nigerian isn’t the only artist bending over to please on this one. As with Davido's other songs, the production is dance-ready, with elements of euro-pop, house music and something of Nigeria supplied by Davido’s voice. Davido who has claimed to be singing a genre he calls afro fusion has probably found the true embodiment of his claim on this song.

There is, however, a niggling feeling that the push to appeal to a different set of fans might come at a price—one Davido looks eager to pay but may be unsupported by a section of his current fan base. The example of D’Banj and the ill-fated deal with Kanye West remains. Of course, the question is: Was D’Banj too early in taking the leap to the US or did he lack required talent and versatility to appeal to both sides? Whatever the case, his excellent single 'Emergency' has been unable to stop his slide into pop music obscurity.

Davido has at least started much better than D’Banj managed in all of his time at Mr West's GOOD Music. Unlike D’Banj who broke up with producer Don Jazzy, a big part of D’Banj’s early success, Davido has his own producer Shizzi still on the team. He produced the first Davido single for Sony, ‘Gbagbe Oshi’. ‘How Long’ is produced by another Nigerian producer, Spellz. As far as production is concerned, Davido will not be leaving his older fans to court new ones.

The video for the song closes on Davido's famously dimpled smile. His fans will be hoping he retains that smile over the coming months.

Buy Davido's Son of Mercy EP on iTunes


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