1. When we heard that Davido was about to release a new album, I asked my co-analyst on Smooth FM if it was even possible to say the album sucks if #TimelessAlbum ended up a not very good project.
2. That question was important because of the tragedy that befell the man last year. And, as we know, Davido is Nigeria’s most autobiographical popstar.
2b. This has been obvious for quite some time across songs like Osinachi remix, FIA, All of You, Assurance etc. Even his OBO nickname is biographical fact. It’s reasonable to expect that maybe last year’s dark event would feed into Timeless.
3. If that happened, then Timeless would provide an ethical dilemma of sorts for reviewers. How do you review a sad album based on a highly public devastation? Each serious reviewer would have to decide for himself.
4. But now that the album is out, it appears Davido has solved the problem himself. Timeless is not a sad album. The main reference to death (and containing what sounds like kids at play) can be found in the penultimate track, LCND. Even so, grief is not the song’s only theme.
5. This is understandable. A certain type of melancholy can hardly speak its own name. And who knows how far along the album was at the time of the incident? Of course, maybe one should not parse an album through an artist’s personal life. But that is not possible in the world we now live in.
6. Still, the absence of direct references may not mean an absence of grieving. If only because Timeless is the first Davido album in a subdued key. It is not a sad album, but the tempo is not quite that of the usual mindless collection of banging singles.
6b. That has been the typical Nigerian pop album since Banky W and Wizkid anchored the landmark Superstar album back in 2011. 12 years later, Davido has chosen some cohesiveness over hit-friendly chaos.
7. So what we have is a solid album that rewards private listening. A few songs will still get into parties, clubs, bars, but this is more sober than usual. Consider songs like Picasso (with the excellent Logos Olori) and Kante (with Fave), both of which are ripe for both rave and romance.
Please subscribe to my newsletter here: https://mailchi.mp/2dd54326e9f8/oris-newsletter
8. The delightfulness of Kante and In the Garden (with Morravey) suggests that Davido has found a sweet spot in collaborating with female acts on this record. Fave’s talent has always been clear.
9. Morravey is the real female revelation. Her appearance here is so good, one hopes DMW handles her career better than it has handled Liya’s.
9b. Port Harcourt is yet to get a female act even close to Omah Lay or Timaya. Can Morravey change that? We’ll see. In any case, there’s a dearth of female popstars across the music industry.
10a. For his fans and for the streets, Davido has For the Road, Precision, and Away. In different ways, these songs adapt that multi-vocal chorus style Pheelz made popular on Finesse last year.
10b. If Away (and maybe any of the other two) become massive in Naija and across the continent, Davido would have proven he still has the ability to produce big solo hits, which his rival Wizkid hasn’t done in recent times.
11a. Another notable track is Na Money (with the Cavemen and Angelique Kidjo). Kidjo enters the track with an arresting rap vibe. She has now worked with a slew of young Nigerian acts with a variety of styles. I salute her sonic genius.
11b. One question, though: Because Kidjo is Africa’s Grammy Granny, is Na Money Davido’s Grammy 2024 play? If it is, I don’t think it is enough and it is a big miss politically. We’ll see how he sells the track and positions the album. If he cares to campaign for the Grammys, that is.
12a. Speaking of the Grammys, you can tell that Davido has geographical ambitions. He has amapiano on Unavailable (with South Africa’s Musa Keys), there’s Caribbean act Dexta Daps on BOP. Skepta on U (Juju) represents the west. Thankfully, all are superb.
12b. Side note: If you have enough mischief, you could read Davido featuring man-of-the-moment Asake on a song titled No Competition as their own equivalent of Burna Boy and Wizkid declaring their MVP status on Ballon D’Or.
12c. Just like the Burna/Wizkid collab, the Davido/Asake collab is mostly about lust, though. So chill on mischief, even if I am certain that Ballon D’Or was really a product of Burna’s ego and Wizkid’s acquiescence.
13. Is Timeless’s subdued tempo a result of tragedy? Maybe it is, maybe not. It could also be a reflection of age. Now in his 30s and married, Davido is no longer the grasshopping kid he was in Dami Duro.
13b. And maybe the main evidence of a novel direction is the song E Pain Me. It used to be unimaginable that Davido would sing about heartbreak, given how Naija popstars, wrongly or not, claim women never reject a moneyed suitor. But he has done it on Timeless. Surprise, surprise.
14. Davido has never really made a great album. He makes great singles. He came really close with A Good Time. But Timeless is better, even if the big singles are not obvious and a song like Godfather is filler not killer.
15. But one thing is unarguable: Timeless is the best album Davido has released since he came on the scene shouting Dami Duro. It is cohesive and every song works as well as one guesses the artist intended them to. As for timelessness, we’ll leave that one up to time itself to decide.