Adekunle Gold: Loser-in-chief comes of age

When Adekunle Gold came on the scene a few years ago, he was Nigerian music’s only loser. Everybody else was luxuriating in lust, liquor and cash.

A girl rejected his proposal on ‘Sade’, he was broke on ‘Pick Up’, the video for ‘Ready’ shows him gawking longingly at happy lovers. He couldn’t even get a kiss in the video for the well-titled ‘Friend Zone’.

That is an almost unbroken series of rejection, an unusual phenomenon in Nigerian music, that la-la land of eternal prurience where every male artist is quite the Casanova with a big cassava. But no sooner had we gotten our loser-in-chief than we lost him to success. On his new album About 30, Adekunle Gold is keen to inform us that that phase of his life is over, so perhaps the most telling line on the album comes early on the song ‘Somebody’: “I’ve travelled around the world. I’ve seen a lot of girls/they try to show me love.” Makes you want to say: Oh, Adekunle Gold, who knew fame was the aphrodisiac you were looking for!

For much of the album, you’re never far from recognising that change from loser to winner, powered by the twin power of semi-hit music and celebrity. Even when he isn’t talking about romance, it is there in how much he can ignore the question of romantic success. He has said the title nods to his experiences since he turned 30. But really he could have named the album ‘From Zero to Hero’.

Bear in mind that he isn’t really gloating about the shift in his circumstance: production on the album is not exactly joyous all through even if there is a noticeable increase in tempo from his cooler debut Gold. You could say About 30 is the work of a man whose living has improved but doesn’t want to alert the neighbours.

On the opener ‘Ire’, we are taken to church in Yorubaland. It is one of those songs that assumes its religious overtones, and decent intentions lend it adequacy. But there is little that the now popular line “If I had known the life I was searching for was looking me right in the eye” delivers to anyone truly seeking novel inspiration. Without the spiritual aura evoked on the haunting gospel chorus, the song is rather like a bland PR jingle for contentment.

Except for portions of the song ‘Fame’, this gesturing towards substance rather than offering it is the bane of much of Adekunle Gold’s songwriting on About 30. At some point he says: “I am looking down at the world from 24 000 feet / and the beauty makes me wonder why anyone would ever doubt / that somebody made the world and everything beautiful.” The line is delivered solemnly like it’s all-important, but neither its phrasing nor the sentiment expressed is new.

Read complete review at Music In Africa here.

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