Perhaps the best pop artists are self-contained. They provide the remedy to their own lesser work. If you don’t like the recent offering, you only have to go back and play the older ones. Take Nigerian pop/R&B artist Wande Coal. His second album Wanted wasn’t quite the revolution fans craved. He did it before on his debut album Mushin 2 Mo’Hits—not quite this time. To rinse off the taste of the new one, go to the older one. But why go back when you can move on?
With the release of the video to ‘Wishlist’, off producer Leriq’s debut album The Lost Sounds, the fan can move ahead on the Wande Coal catalogue. The song has come just in time to erase any thoughts that he was past it, and remind listeners and viewers of why they fell in love with Mr Coal in the first place. It was a love tied to his voice, that flexible, caressing tool. It was also about the confidence the man rode whatever beat was thrown his way.
On ‘Wishlist’ it is about how he rides the pauses. Leriq’s production on the song is measured, not your typical club jam. Too slow, too sophisticated. Wande’s verses accordingly are structured to fit the Leriq programme.
The song's lyrics are not quite ground-breaking. “Let’s run and go to a place where no one sees us,” goes the chorus in Yoruba. The line is repeated. Between the reps Wande Coal inserts ‘Ah…eh’—a Nigerianism that maybe the whole reason for his success. Here we have a singer willing to include his Nigerianess in everything. The sound is otherworldly but Wande brings it closer to the local listener. In the end 'Wishlist' has it both ways. The sound is placeless; the vocals are often locally inflected—making ‘Wishlist’ a model of pop balance.
The great thing about the best pop tunes is that even the obvious platitudes begin to have their own logic. Thus the first verse of ‘Wishlist’ is remarkable for Mr Coal’s voice as much as it about how those lines told us by a million pop songs come to us fresh as delivered by the vocalist. A song about a wooing, the lines, “I’m only trying to take you out of danger…” “It is you I’m die for/ only you, girl I would ride for” have been used over and again.
Even the chorus escapes cliché only because Wande Coal uses ‘wish list’ instead of ‘wish’ or the bi-syllabic ‘wishes’. “Imma make sure you wish list, wish list come true” could easily be “imma make sure your wishes come true.” The latter may even be more grammatical.
As it is though it appears that just by doing a single thing—probably sexual—a lover as lyricist can make a whole list of wishes made by the unnamed woman come true. This, of course, has always been the argument of love songs: reducing the complexity of love to a single need, carnal or otherwise, is not a diminishment of romance but an enlargement of what the object of affection means to the lover-observer.
And if Wande Coal’s return is the obvious theme of ‘Wishlist’, then the song’s other story of note is the excellence of Leriq.
As Leriq, a producer, is the engineer and owner of this record, the important message is directed to the listener: If a great pop song that sounds like nothing on radio or in the clubs was on your wish list, you may cross it out now.