As everyone knows the modern Nigerian singer is a hit-making machine. Hit making is no crime but at some point it becomes difficult to tell songs apart.
It is perhaps counter-intuitive that it is mostly in the non-obvious hit song that an artist's personality gets a chance to show. If the gods smile, the same song may be an outright hit. A few examples: Wizkid's 'Ojuelegba', Reminisce's 'Kako bi Chicken', even Yemi Alade's 'Johnny'. It is one reason the album is important:. Within an album, an artist can have the obvious hit; she can also demonstrate a identity.
With Reekado Banks, member of the group Mavins and purveyor of the hit songs 'Oluwa Ni' and 'Katapot' and 'Standard', the identity part of his pop stardom has been elusive. All that can be said be certainty is that he's Don Jazzy's protegee. But no true artist wants to be described using another person's name. Even Don Jazzy doesn't want that.
For a guy who sings about girls, Reekado's unconvincing verse on Tiwa's ode to oral sex on her second album RED made it clear he wasn't the sex-song guy. Even his mentions of sex in his own songs were mediated by ambiguity. Is he interested in love or lust? All we can say is he is now a "biggy man" when months ago he was a small boy, as he says on ‘Oluwa Ni.’
Part of the problem is that already top positions in traditional Yoruba music influenced pop are taken. Wande Coal brought the type of music to a wider Nigerian audience. Wizkid took the ministry further, to Africa and, slowly, beyond the continent. Everyone else is condemned to working on a smaller scale. The folks who want to do something else have to ransack genres other than fuji and juju. Prime example is Terry Apala, who is doing new things with apala. Adekunle Gold is perpetuating the tradition without overt nods to pop commercialism. Orezi, who like Reekado recalls Wizkid and Wande, is still not as famous as his bigger songs.
With Reekado Banks toeing the route of the 2-W men, it seemed certain that a body of work might be an issue. And so it is with his middling debut album Spotlight. On some songs, he sounds like Wizkid. But the real Wizkid still is making music so what’s to miss?
What Reekado has going is the might, musical and practical, of Don Jazzy. But these days, the producer doesn't have so much time to expend on his younger recruits. I'm not sure if this is a question of time or if it's merely how the big-time producer sees his younger stars. Iyanya got production work from Don Jazzy himself on his first Mavin song plus vocals by the man. Perhaps that was to make a statement considering the unexpectedness of Iyanya's move. But then Don Jazzy worked closely with Tiwa Savage on her RED album. RED had 16 songs; Don Jazzy produced all but four.
In contrast, Spotlight has 18 songs; Don Jazzy receives production credit on 5 songs. And none of those productions is on the level of Ms Savage's excellent 'If I Start to Talk'. Of those 5 songs on Spotlight, 'Na Ur Boy' has the most engaging beat. The rest aren't awful even if you've heard better from Don Jazzy. They need a special songwriting talent to elevate them beyond passable pop. Reekado Banks doesn't supply the goods in that regard.
Baby Fresh's work on 'All Your Love' is quite a tune, that than the new single 'Problem'. A few parties will groove to it. It turns out that the album's most misguided song, 'Change,' is produced by Don Jazzy. The song wants to be political in the mould of Fela by using horns and riding on President Buhari's campaign mantra. But with his ineffectual delivery and clumsy lyrics, Reekado can't fake conviction. Its failure recalls a similar attempt at politics in pop by Seyi Shay. Nigerian pop artists have to take it easy in this regard. Most care only about the liberties fame affords yet want the gravitas of political concern in their CVs.
Vocally, Reekado is inferior to Wizkid and Wande Coal, the people he calls to mind. And crucially, Spotlight is inferior to his own previous singles. So that it's hard to listen to Spotlight and not think about that controversy at the Headies on the first day of this year. As everyone knows he was up against Lil Kesh and Kiss Daniel, whose first album, New Era, was rather excellent.
Awards are fallible and presumably Reekado did win fair since it was via votes. Nonetheless, if the category is to be judged post-Spotlight, one has to think that award would be held within the palms of a different hand.