A Better Time: Davido did it better the last time

The new Davido album, A Better Time, is not as good as his previous album, A Good Time. The tunes are less arresting and the songwriting is more or less at the same level.

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That is not to say the new album is bad. It’s a decent body of work and even as it pales compared to its predecessor, it has its strong moments. By now, everybody and their grandmother has heard FEM, the hit that was released before the album showed up. It is the first song of the album — as a result, it is an incredibly strong opener. Clearly, the downside to such a strong opener is that it becomes difficult for any other song to match it.

And yet, by design or otherwise, this is hardly a problem because many listeners will skip it. I know I did. It has become too popular without an album for it to fully be an album track.

So the album really begins with ‘Jowo’, a middling track that is easily bested by at least matched by other tracks on the album. It is not until the album’s 7th track, ‘The Best’ featuring the playful but talented pop act Mayorkun that one can perceives the stirrings of a true pop hit. Already the song has proven its crowd-pleasing quality, becoming the most streamed track on the platform Audiomack within days of the album’s release.

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Mayorkun is not the only act who shines on the album. Inevitably, attention has attended the Nicki Minaj showcase ‘Holy Ground’ but something about the song doesn’t quite jell. Maybe it’s because the song title gives the impression of something sacred but is actually about sexual relations:

She said, “Come, if you wanna”
I said, “I know myself, I’m gonna wanna”
Activate undercover, so let me know
She say, “Nwannem biko”
Activate if you wanna, let her know it’s not the normal size
This kind thing go make your ship capsize
So let me know if you wanna ride

The dissonance aside, the female guest appearance that sparkles is Tiwa Savage’s on ‘Tanana’, a song that seems to again be about sexual shenanigans between Davido’s character and a lover with whom he wants to “tanana…mekwe…jogodo” on a Saturday. The song covers the kind of theme that Tiwa has built a career around and she is astute, at some point asking her lover to “play her like La Liga”. If a video shows up for the song, you can expect that line to be popular among Nigeria’s soccer-crazy audience.

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Popular American rapper Nas is on ‘Birthday Cake’ and delivers but decides to overcontribute at the end. The song has Davido declaring that some lady is his “Simba” and he’s her “Mufasa”. I have no idea what the metaphor is supposed to represent but do these things matter to Nigerian acts or their fans?

At the end of the album, there’s a song with Sauti Sol. It’s an interesting collaboration and song, given that Davido appeared to mock artists who make self-consciously African songs to win western attention. Well, Sauti Sol is the representative contemporary band with that sound and the song ‘On My Way’ pretty much begins in such a manner. Of course, Davido also wants the western attention that his peers have. But he can pooh-pooh in his peers while gunning for the same aesthetic. If that’s the case, it is a shame that the song doesn’t go far enough to truly get that thing that the man says he’s against.

That is no real loss because Davido knows what he has and can never lose: the support of a massive number of African fans. This is not the album that they deserve. But they won’t be complaining. Whatever else will be said about how A Better Time compares to A Good Time, the earlier album did not have a song titled ‘FEM’, which along with ‘The Best’ is enough to make Davido fans happy.

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Nigeria’s most acclaimed writer-reviewer. Business: www.criticsandbylines.com.

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