A track by track Review of Burna Boy’s Twice As Tall

Generally, I hate track by track reviews. Perhaps unfairly, I associate the form with weak thinkers. But I wrote a long track by track thread about Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall on Twitter because it’s suited to the form. I reproduce it, more or less, below.

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Track 1: Interesting drums. Congratulations to Burna. He got Youssou N’Dour on a track. He shows vulnerability by admitting not winning the Grammy hurt him and how they “almost had a nigga feeling envious”. *Group hug*

Track 1: The song is similar to Burna’s collaboration with Angelique Kidjo in that they haven’t spent enough time blending Youssou N’Dour’s vocals into the production; both sound like 2 songs in 1 and are more mission statements than musical compositions.

Track 2: (Someone tell Diddy to stop please.) The song itself begins well enough. But this track is less a song than a filler.

Track 3: This is the most urgently appealing so far. That famous Burna ego is back. “Your back and spinal cord e go break If You carry my weight”. Very nice. The song’s percussion means business.

Track 3: Part of what made Bob Marley successful in the west was the ease with which his reggae mixed with elements of rock music, particularly perceptible on his last album, 1980’s Uprising. Something similar is happening at the end of this track…but rock is no longer a force.

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Track 4: Not sure what to make of this. Burna worked with Zlatan and made a hit. This doesn’t sound too bad but Rexxie has done way better with Naira Marley.

Track 5: Burna Boy is not a man of peace; he’s a man of war. So this jaunty, friendly, generic “African” beat on ‘Wonderful’ sounded strange then & now, like Burna is vying to be the Papa Africa husband to Yemi Alade.

Track 6: Is ‘Onyeka’ the obligatory love song? Not bad.

Track 7: He got Naughty by Nature on a song. That is already a win. Sorry, I admit a bias for the heroes of the 1990s. I think there was a story that one of the first songs Burna “mimed” as a kid was by NBN. Can’t put a number on a guy living his childhood dream.

Track 8: This Comma Girl…hmm. Is this Burna’s version of Fela’s ‘Lady’? Burna just doesn’t have the chemistry Naira Marley has with Rexxie. Not sure if the lyrics digs women or plans to be labelled misogynistic. *scratches head* Until I hear it in a club…

Track 9: ‘No Fit Vex’ takes us to the Burna Boy from ‘Soke’. Empathetic to the average Nigerian. Instant highlight! Almost a decade after LIFE, one fact is unchanged: @Leriq brings the best from Burna.

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Track 9: Last year, I asked if it is “possible for Burna Boy to quit with blaming [the average Nigerian] and..see her problems as his headache?” This song answers my question admirably: “E dey ginger my soul I dey see your struggle I no fit vex for you”. Not that I take credit.

Track 10: Was first confused by the title “23”. But it’s inspired by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls jersey (he’s name-checked in the chorus). Sober Burna, even bragging, is often very good and this is another Leriq highlight. Recalls ‘Pree Me’ and Olamide’s ‘Mu Emu’ from BGEL.

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Track 11: Is that Sade’s ‘Sweetest Taboo’ beat wrapping the vocals? Burna Boy really wants kinship with the greats. Hmm. The earlier Burna/Sauti Sol collab is better than this one. But this isn’t bad.

Track 11: The first time Sauti Sol and Burna Boy there was a hint of Sting’s strings from 1993’s ‘Shape of You’. This time it’s Sade’s drums. Interesting that when two African stars come together, their intersection is from the west.

Track 12: Coldplay fans from back in the day must have wondered if we’ll get early soft-rock purist Chris Martin. No way. We get pop Chris on this solid song. The NYT was right about the song’s force. Mungo Park is unfairly insulted.

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Track 13: Wetin dey Sup! Correct jam. It seems Burna needed to tell his people he’s with us after singing with a white man. Is that Timbaland? That’ll be quite brilliant. Question: Is this song’s vulgar first line rabidly heterosexual or plainly homophobic? What you think?

Track 14: Looks like Burna Boy intended to outshine every vocalist he collaborated with, especially Diddy but excepting Sauti Sol and Stormzy.

Track 15: LOL @ Burna’s inconsistency in messaging. He says someone will “leak red like tomato if him nuh dead them him comatose”, and yet he’s asking the Lord for protection. Oga choose one. Are you Indaboski or Pastor Adeboye? But this is a nice song. Strong finish.

Track 15: Burna does well with female vocalists. He should be having more female voices on his projects. Recall, in particular, Mabel on ‘Outside’.

Verdict: Let’s do this in sections…Lyrically, production, politics, and Grammy chances. Then I’ll rank his Western Trilogy (Outside, African Giant, and Twice As Tall). #TwiceAsTall gets a score at the end.

Lyrically: This is a more a bragging record than an activist one and more autobiographical than political. As with African Giant, even if the politics is overplayed by foreign media, politics really is less than 30% of the album.

Politics: Over the next few days, post-hype and post-euphoria, we’ll hear discussions about Burna’s questionable sexual and sexist lyrics. He doesn’t score high in both cases, so brace yourselves, Burna fans. His class politics is better this time.

Production: Burna should work more with Leriq. Their chemistry is unimprovable. There are no real innovative sounds across the album, so this is a case of competent sonic work to get the job done.

Grammy Chances: #TwiceasTall is almost as good as African Giant. The better album didn’t win, so pray for Grammy inconsistency and that the coronavirus doesn’t allow Angelique Kidjo or Ladysmith Black Mambazo release albums.

(Forget Diddy’s Album of the Year rant. No African pop act’s album is smelling the 4 major Grammy categories anytime soon. Well, unless Covid-19 and George Floyd have scrambled the Recording Academy’s parochial politics…)

Burna Boy’s Western Trilogy Ranking:

3rd place: Outside
2nd place: Twice As Tall
1st place: African Giant

Final word: Congratulations to Burna Boy. Good Work; Greater PR. Altogether #TwiceasTall = 7.1/10.

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