Adekunle Gold has done something no other Nigerian act has done: he’s built a career out of being a loser. At least at the start.
Most of his early songs cast him as the unlucky guy, the guy who never gets the girl. His breakout single, Sade, had him trying to convince a girl to date and marry him. There was no happy ending. In Pick Up, his appeal is no longer to the girl; it is to God. On ‘Ready’, he tries to woo girls on Instagram; he gets ignored.
Then there is the song with the self-explanatory title ‘Friendzone’. Of course, there is the one true love song from his early career, ‘Orente’, but let’s remember that even there, he’s the poorer guy his lover chooses.
Nobody has showed up to Nigeria’s music industry with so heavy a commitment to not being the winner. Even when Davido, obviously lying, claimed he was broke on his debut single, he was sure to frame it as past tense. As the line goes, “Back when, I was broke…” Wizkid showed up already “fly” enough to holla at the girls.
The one ancestor Adekunle Gold has in that regard is someone many Nigerian music lovers will not guess. His name is, drumroll, Timaya. It is now easy to forget that Timaya had a song lamenting his bad luck with a girl on his first album. The song, too, has a self-explanatory title: “Honey na Money”. Sample lyric: “Because I no get money, you don dey act funny.”
Besides the relentlessness of Adekunle Gold, a key difference between his entry and Timaya lies in one small detail: Adekunle Gold made the songs about his lack of romantic success major singles; Timaya’s song was one of the unpopular tracks on his debut album, True Story.
This brings us to the new single, ‘Something Different’. In the time since his first few singles, Adekunle Gold has left his loserdom behind, become a star, found love, got a famous wife, even changed from haircut to hairdo. As his life has changed so has his music. The heavy insecurity of his early character has dissipated. He’s into celebrating love, as you can hear on songs like ‘Before You Wake Up’. So far is the distance from his early characters, that on the new single, the character is actually entitled.
“We could have been something different,” he sings. “You say no money, no honey/You should be walking beside me/morning and evening/Girl, why you running?”
Those are not lines that that the old Adekunle Gold could have said with a straight face three to four years ago. But…look at God. Now, he’s created a persona big enough to say “your loss” to a woman refusing to be won over. Apparently, being a successful popstar means you never have to sulk.
Nonetheless, if you read the line quoted above and wonder if Adekunle Gold has fully gotten over his earlier music persona, you are right to wonder. There is still a hang-up on the idea of a woman demanding money in the soul of the new persona. Clearly, Adekunle Gold is not like the spendthrift Wizkid or the braggadocious Davido.
In other words, there might be a lesson on class and finance here. Maybe I’ll write about that another time. For now, it seems clear that being a Nigerian popstar means never having to hear “no”, but for Adekunle Gold old habits die hard.