Tech And 5 Other Reasons PSquare Still Matters In 2022 (And Beyond?)

A couple of months ago, I was invited to a concert at Terrakulture in Victoria Island, Lagos for a concert by PSquare. I had imagined it would be quite an event. And so it proved. The twins still have it. As I watched (and, shh, danced) I reflected on why PSquare has endured.

1. Volume. In their heyday, I was one of those who didn’t believe too much in the artistic quality of what Peter and Paul were putting out. I still think that I was right. But they got many things right. The chief of it all was volume.

It is easy to say now but before streaming forced everybody to release brand news songs per minute, PSquare knew that releasing albums frequently was an important way to stay top-of-mind. To make their case even stronger, they knew that an album that was all killer and no filler was the way to go. There are only a few artists from more than a decade ago with albums you would play from start to finish. PSquare is one of those.

For those who can remember, there was a time the Nigerian pop “album” had only two to four songs and then instrumentals. P-Square didn’t do that. Game Over and Get Squared are enough for the duration of an entire concert. Of course, Olamide will take the idea to its extreme and Asake will do something similar with singles…

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2. Politics. Fela will live forever; 2face, too. But not every conscious artist will. Why? Well, if your music activism is super-specific, it very likely has an expiry date. I know, I know, it is an unfortunate point. But it is true. One of PSquare’s big business moves was to focus on love. And when they did politics, it was subtle. A song like Chop My Money has social commentary embedded within but it is universal enough and catchy enough to retain its power years on.

Listen to African China: how many young people know Clifford Orji today? From a strictly business point of view, new artists interested in the long game need to ask themselves if their talent is enough to combat the trouble with super-specificity. If it isn’t, they would do well to understand the limitations and plan accordingly. Love and sex are eternal; Tinubu isn’t. Perhaps the most popular political song by PSquare is the one about “Oga Police”. When they sang it at Terrakulture, the crowd hollered. You know why.

3. Controversy. Whether it is the rantings of one of them or the breakdown in relations of both of them, somehow PSquare never left the wider culture conversation. A hard price to pay, perhaps. But the fruits are clear. In the absence of music, there was gossip, and that gossip kept the familiar to a generation that was absent in PSquare’s heyday.

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4. A Growing Audience. A generous slice of the generation of music lovers that was raised on PSquare’s music have come into power. Some of them control radio, some of them control streaming, some of them have event centres, some of them are perched across juicy positions across media. They recognise the name PSquare. They play those songs. They probably invite them to events. They stream the music. Influence is business. And these people are prone to looking back. For them, PSquare requires no introduction.

5. Adaptability. I was involved a conversation with an older artist months ago. He was about to release an album. I listened to it and it was stuck in the past. The songs were long. The beat wasn’t anything you’d hear on trending radio this decade. I told him he needed the songs to be shorter and even the album. I don’t think he agreed with me. That’s both an artistic and business flaw. And this is from an artist that wasn’t considered in the upper echelons of talent even back in the day. P-Square have been smarter. It helps that they are “highly funded”. But choosing to use TG Omori for their comeback music video is also a mindset. These old dogs are amenable to new tricks.

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6. Streaming/Technology. Back in the day, record labels needed to actively figure out which of their old records would make the most money if rereleased. Today, they can look at the streaming numbers and note which ones to promote strategically. If some of your favourite acts in the day didn’t survive decades, it probably was related to what the business calculated as important. Today, PSquare’s music from my days in the university are available at a click. And all of the reasons listed up there have ensured that, enough people have clicked for Psquare to receive more than 1 billion streams — even if their biggest albums showed up way before streaming became the dominant form of music distribution.

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