Best Naija Pop Album/EP in 2022

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Poll Closing Date: Thursday, 15 December 2022 00:00 (in 1 week)

What was the best Nigerian pop album or EP in 2022?

Adekunle Gold - Catch Me If You Can
Asake - Mr Money With The Vibe
Basketmouth - Horoscopes
BNXN fka Buju - Bad Since ‘97
Burna Boy - Love, Damini
Fireboy DML - Playboy
Omah Lay - Boy, Alone
Rema - Rave & Roses
Simi - TBH (To Be Honest)
Victony - Outlaw
Wizkid - More Love, Less Ego

rob, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 14:26 (two weeks ago) link

My short list: Asake, Rema, Wizkid, with R&R as the current frontrunner

The Omah Lay and BNXN are excellent too, and Burna could have been shortlisted with some trimming—there are probably as many minutes of good music on Love, Damini as there are on Mr Money

rob, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 14:33 (two weeks ago) link

Rema over Wizkid and Omah Lay for me. This makes perfect sense as a trinity to me.

Interesting to see how afropop has moved towards becoming an album-genre isn't it.

I agree with breastcrawl Never Forget is probably afro-SOTY, with the killer charm of Kenkele-In my Mind not far behind. Special mention also to Something by Gyakie for having my favorite chorus of the year (a bit the equivalent of Dunnie the year before).

Nabozo, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 15:48 (two weeks ago) link

right now it'd be Rema for me but i've listened to that album a lot more than anything else this year

Burnt Norton 360 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 16 November 2022 15:56 (two weeks ago) link

Oh and Finesse, arguably the biggest hit of the year.

Nabozo, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 15:58 (two weeks ago) link

Interesting to see how afropop has moved towards becoming an album-genre isn't it.

yes! this is why I made this poll—it feels like a genuinely remarkable change

rob, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 16:32 (two weeks ago) link

I'll definitely vote for Asake but all of these are great-to-awesome.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Wednesday, 16 November 2022 20:02 (two weeks ago) link

rema or asake but wizkid is nipping at their heels

comedy khadafi (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 16 November 2022 20:21 (two weeks ago) link

good poll, rob! for me it’s between Rema, Asake and Wizkid, with Omah (and perhaps Basketmouth?) somewhat behind in their slipstream.

the Asake thing is a work of art.

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Wednesday, 16 November 2022 20:26 (two weeks ago) link

_Interesting to see how afropop has moved towards becoming an album-genre isn't it._

yes! this is why I made this poll—it feels like a genuinely remarkable change

chicken and egg, but it’s definitely a manifestation of the integration/acceptance of Afropop into the international (i.e. Western) musical ecosystem.

during the 2010, albums weren’t a given for Naija artists at all, not even for the biggest ones. Olamide would release an album every year like clockwork, but he was the exception. several years between each project was more common, see Wizkid, Tiwa. Davido released just one EP (aimed at crossover success) after his 2012 debut, until his belated US success prompted him to release two albums in (too) quick succession in 2019 and 2020. Tekno of course missed the boat completely, by releasing his debut seven years into his career, when his star was seriously fading.

I think it’s indisputable that Burna has led the way in this, Outside and African Giant proved to the world - and importantly the industry - that Afropop was a viable commercial proposition. Made in Lagos and the flood of albums in its wake are able to stand twice as tall on the shoulders of this giant.

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Wednesday, 16 November 2022 20:57 (two weeks ago) link

an extension of this is the whole touring thing. Afropop has become an integral part of the international touring ecosystem as well. it has simply exploded after the pandemic years. in the past four months we have had the following artists playing Amsterdam, most of them selling out the (mainstream) venues they were performing in:

Tiwa Savage
Kidi + Kuami Eugene
The Cavemen.
Cruel Santino
Adekunle Gold
Fireboy DML
Oxlade (his was a more like a PA, I believe)
(The Brother Moves On: not afropop, different circuit, but still)
King Promise
…and Wizkid will be here next week!

so yeah, I want to highlight CKay (who I saw two nights ago) because I forgot to mention his album when rob asked for suggestions for this. it’s pretty good as well - not that I would vote for it, but like the Omah album it goes for a specific vibe and stays the course. I like the kind of modern kizomba vibe of the songs with lusophone and francophone duet partners.

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Wednesday, 16 November 2022 21:21 (two weeks ago) link

Asake is currently my aoty, so voting for that. breastcrawl otm, but I think this year it seemed like a tipping point, where there's enough good afropop albums as collection of songs, so now everyone has to find out ways to make their release stand out as an album. I think More Love, Less Ego is a lot more cohesive than Made In Lagos, for instance. My ballot will be quite dominated by naija albums, I think.

Burna Boy is headlining Roskilde next year in another sign of afropop taking over the world :)

Frederik B, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 21:41 (two weeks ago) link

rema is probably my favourite but i haven't listened to all of these yet

ufo, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 23:42 (two weeks ago) link

me neither tbh, though I did get around to checking out TBH (To Be Honest) the other day

I revisited Boy, Alone yesterday and now I think I'd include that in my shortlist for sure; it's not as immediately grabby as Mr Money but I think it might be deeper

ultimately though, this is Rave & Roses for me

rob, Thursday, 17 November 2022 14:22 (two weeks ago) link

wanna give a special mention to the excellent obongjayar album some nights i dream of doors. prob not “naija” or “pop” enough for this poll but def one of my fav albums this year

comedy khadafi (voodoo chili), Thursday, 17 November 2022 14:25 (two weeks ago) link

let me make a case for Victony’s Outlaw EP. Victony is another of the new emo-boys. he specializes in featherlight Naijapiano (most of the time) with razor-sharp emotive vocals and (self-)harmonies.

he made one of my favourite songs of 2021 with Rexxie, “Ego”, an unsung classic, and had his breakthrough late last year as the singer of the glorious hook (and more) on Mayorkun’s Nigerian number one hit “Holy Father”. this year he released superb single after superb single, and then dropped his EP in May.

(btw, even you think you don’t know him, there’s a good chance you’ve heard him: he’s on “Different Size”, one of the highlights on Burna’s Love, Damini)

the EP starts with two slow tracks (“Chop & Slide” is very good), and then it’s banger time - the four hit tracks: ”Apollo” (produced by P.Priime), “Kolomental” (Blaise Beatz), “Jolene” (KTIZO), and the biggest, the brilliant “Soweto” (a Tempoe joint), plus non-single “All Power” (KTIZO). in most of these he’s on the verge of being completely overwhelmed by his feelings for a nearby beauty and then clings to some evocative word, investing it with senseless new meaning:

in the EP stakes, I love this one at least as much as the BNXN project.

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Saturday, 19 November 2022 22:36 (two weeks ago) link

I like a lot of new afropop but I don’t think it’s nearly as exciting or adventurous as it was in the initial early-mid 10s explosion … felt way more diverse then … also it bought the albums around 2014 or so were good then too, tiwa savage, wizkid, burna all had good mid 10s albums

xheugy eddy (D-40), Sunday, 20 November 2022 05:39 (one week ago) link

Well, it all used to be a bit faster, dance oriented and underproduced, for sure. Whereas quite a bit of the newer stuff has settled in for confident tastefulness. What’s your thoughts on the Asake album, deej?

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Sunday, 20 November 2022 09:56 (one week ago) link

Thanks for that Victony post bc, Soweto is very nice and I will check out the rest.

deej is right about the diversity of the mid-10s, and I do think of that period as a golden era, but I didn't truly love a full-length naija pop album until Outside in 2019. Maybe I'm mired in unexamined rockism, but I think the trade-off of adventurousness for consistency and a general baseline of quality hasn't been a net loss.

OTOH, I voted for Rema and it's definitely the most varied option here, production-wise. It's undeniable that some of these albums stick to a single sonic palette throughout—as I've posted before the Asake almost sounds like one continuous song.

rob, Monday, 21 November 2022 14:46 (one week ago) link

I like the asake a lot, smart idea to be like 'what if amapiano was shorter'

xheugy eddy (D-40), Tuesday, 22 November 2022 04:33 (one week ago) link

As an impatient ama listener I definitely agree with that (and "one song" wasn't a criticism tbc, it's part of why I think that album is impressive)

rob, Tuesday, 22 November 2022 14:16 (one week ago) link

I'll probably always prefer the open-ended "artist/genre figuring something out" phase over the fully formed "artist/genre having figured it all out" phase.
That being said, Made in Lagos and More Love, Less Ego are vastly superior to Ayo in nearly all things that matter, even though it's hard to beat the breathless rush of a Show Me the Money or an Ojuelegba.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Wednesday, 23 November 2022 18:10 (one week ago) link

feel pretty confident in saying that african giant and made in lagos are two of the best albums of the last 20 years in any genre... so it's hard for me to feel like afrobeats' arc towards album orientation is anything other than unambiguously great when left w/ albums that feel that titanic from a pure quality perspective. but those records & the genre's general turn towards tasteful R&B also play more to my personal taste than the more club oriented origins of the genre.

eventually something will come along and shake things up -- perhaps that's asake. but i also think it's a matter of what lens you view all this music thru. for instance you could make a case that burna, wizkid etc sanded off the edges of their sound/afrobeats in general as they found themselves being embraced by a mainstream western audience. but by the same token you could also say that burna, wiz & other african artists totally reframed our idea of what contemporary R&B could and should sound like, even as their music hewed to general notions of tastefulness. as we talked about recently, you can make a strong argument that african artists breathed new life into american R&B

J0rdan S., Wednesday, 23 November 2022 23:20 (one week ago) link

i think in the context of this discussion it's interesting to think about the fact that burna boy came back this year w/ a wizkid collab -- at the height of wizkid's fame -- that harkened back to the percussive, dancier roots of afrobeats & the song flopped so hard that it didn't even make burna's album. and instead he scored by far his biggest global hit w/ a flip (albeit a clever & crowd pleasing one) of an early 2000s american R&B song. it feels like those two things encapsulate a lot of what we're talking about here in terms of how the genre has shifted

J0rdan S., Wednesday, 23 November 2022 23:27 (one week ago) link

Really well put Jordan and agree that afropop continues to be creative on the r&b side (which also aligns with my taste). At the same time, there's no dilemma, it's true that the dancy side has taken a step back and the genre has lost some sense of urgency, and that feels more like an artistic choice than a necessity of the genre evolution. Or do all genres tend to soften when they mature and that has escaped me.

Nabozo, Thursday, 24 November 2022 08:08 (one week ago) link

It's mostly to do with Ojuelegba becoming the breakout hit, in my analysis. After that the tempo went down and laidback won out over frantic partying. Which opened a lot of doors and defined a room to explore - at the expense of other artistic choices. Part of what's exciting to me at the moment is the countering influence of amapiano, which is very much a wild, unsettled genre, where anything can happen within a certain bpm range - as long as you remember to bring the shakers.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Thursday, 24 November 2022 08:44 (one week ago) link

Yeah although I wanted to say that despite the amapiano connection, it hasn't been enough to really resuscitate the partying. I'm not saying it has disappeared completely either, it's not black and white, Rema for example has a very satisfying fusion of sensibility and hitters. I guess Asake is trying to be wild and to offer a new point of balance, shame that it's rubbing me off the wrong way and that I find him annoying.

Nabozo, Thursday, 24 November 2022 09:45 (one week ago) link

Great posts J0rdan, though yeah I also wondered: are you into amapiano? I agree with Nabozo that the ama influence hasn't resulted in much dancey naija, but I wonder if that dance->rnb trajectory is changing. I also don't know where to locate the dancehall influence in this narrative; maybe it's foundational, part of the DNA that isn't subject to trends?

It's mostly to do with Ojuelegba becoming the breakout hit, in my analysis.

2014 seems kind of early to me; Soweto Baby, e.g., came out more than a year later. Also maybe it's just me but I tend to think of Ojuelegba as something of a road not taken (afrobeat revival pop?), rather than a precursor. Meanwhile, in 2018 you have Fake Love, Fever, Soco, etc.—definitely a big turning point for Wizkid at least, though perhaps that makes it less the seed and more the full flowering. Skimming some old playlists, Runtown's Mad Over You stood out as a possible harbinger of moving away from dance

rob, Thursday, 24 November 2022 13:50 (one week ago) link

The Ojuelegba remix was 2015 at the earliest. That’s when it started to happen. It all took time but by 2016 afropop was mostly 100 bpm.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Thursday, 24 November 2022 16:11 (one week ago) link

oh right lol I forgot about Drake

rob, Thursday, 24 November 2022 16:14 (one week ago) link

Or do all genres tend to soften when they mature and that has escaped me.

― Nabozo, Thursday, November 24, 2022 3:08 AM (five days ago)

an overarching theme in kelefa sanneh's book is about how genres "soften" and "harden" (using my words here not his) over time in reaction to whatever of those two happens to be dominant at the time i.e. R&B going from quiet storm to new jack swing to neo soul or the ways in which country has pinged back and forth between soft/mainstream records & artists and hard/outlaw/cowboy ones (being general here). so i think it's likely that a new wave breaks into the afrobeats scene that moves the genre in a different, less tasteful R&B direction, and i bet it will prob happen soon. maybe that's artists like asake and seyi vibes that have a harder edge to them... maybe it's a shift to "alternative" music/artists (i.e. curious what direction new amaarae music goes) rather than a harkening back to the harder percussive dance production of a decade ago. or maybe the influence of amapiano does move things back towards that. but i bet we're already at or just passed the peak of the sound encapsulated by this poll really dominating the genre

J0rdan S., Tuesday, 29 November 2022 19:12 (four days ago) link

Rolling Stone has Cruel Santino’s Subaru Boys: Final Heaven at #40, the Asake album at #39, and More Love, Less Ego at #26 in its 100 Best Albums of 2022 list.

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Thursday, 1 December 2022 19:14 (two days ago) link

I saw that, pretty remarkable. Definitely surprised to see the Santino on there, but I also can't remember anything about it. I guess I should revisit?

rob, Thursday, 1 December 2022 19:33 (two days ago) link

I played it once, remember liking and being intrigued by it, but forgot to return to it

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Thursday, 1 December 2022 19:40 (two days ago) link

new* profile on Asake in (The) Native (Mag)

it’s “new” in that it was published just now. however, it was written three months ago, before the album came out, and apparently no one thought to update it. weirdly, it totally omits producer Magicsticks, not even a namecheck, and worse, his “King of Sounds and Blues” tag is attributed to Asake himself. still a very interesting read.

it’s counterbalanced by this earlier review of the album, which does focus on Asake’s remarkable partnership with Magicsticks:

big movers, hot steppers + long shaker intros (breastcrawl), Thursday, 1 December 2022 19:46 (two days ago) link

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