Let’s say you don’t speak Yoruba. It’s okay. Let’s also say you don’t like generic, predictable and duplicative afropop– my brother, that’s okay too. Now let’s assume you do like generic, predictable and duplicative afropop, I tell you, that’s also fine.Why? This album, Simisola by Simi, released last week by X3M Music, is the thing you want to hear right now, because it satisfies everybody’s yearnings, including yours. But there’s so much more to the record than definitely pleasing everybody.
That voice. Look around Nigeria and come take my lunch if you can find any other voice so overwhelmingly pure and controlled and effective.
I know I’m prone to theatrics when it comes to beautiful things, high achievement, and anything that moves me viscerally, but no matter how hard I try to devil’s-advocate Simisola, I come up with nothing negative to say about it.
I thought maybe with repeated listening, my brain would grow weary of the thing, but nah. I jammed the earplugs into my head and literally played all 15 songs all night. Simi sang to my conscious and unconscious self throughout the night. I woke up still loving her. No need listing favourite tracks- Smile for Me, Aimasiko, One Kain, Take Me Back, HipHop Hurray, O Wa Nbe, Complete Me, Joromi…. This isn’t fair.
Who wrote these songs? Who arranged the music? Who produced it? Whoever did deserves my applause. Although the record takes something from the pop, Yoruba folk, highlife, R&B/Soul, and even reggae genres, while curtseying to the legendary Ebenezer Obey and Victor Uwaifo, there’s not a note out of place, and the album carries its themes of introspection and desire confidently, with no pandering to the Funke judi-judi expectations of the mass market, which is commonly believed to help Nigerian pop artistes quickly “blow”.
This album, Simi’s first solo, after three or so years of teasing Nigeria with hit singles and collabs, proves the hypothesis that a gifted artiste would blow in the country when they stay true to their own strengths, put in the work and produce outstanding music. Also, it shows that a record company can still succeed here even if it chooses to lean towards “alternative” sounds or pop with an arty twist.
Congratulations to Steve Babaeko’s X3M Music. Simisola confirms that their experiment has worked and I’m confident that it’s X3M Music’s day in the sun. About 11 years since they first signed a management contract with Ade Bantu, the dream has finally taken flight. With both Praiz and Simi in the house, X3M Music has blown. It’s time to hit international.
Now, back this album, let me try to play devil’s advocate one more time. You see, there’s a certain inflection that’s always obvious in Simi’s voice. Asa has something like that, too. Some people may find it distracting and think it makes her songs like a continuation of one another.
But I don’t. I see it as a signature element. Despite it, each song on Simisola is still masterfully executed and distinguishable by beat and melody. Simi has created a record that’s sure to have a long life, and she’s gonna be here for a long time, too.
I can bet my supper on that.
Also, people say Adekunle Gold is only on one track in the album. I think not. Listen to the compilation again. Go find all the places where the young virtuoso’s voice backs Simi’s or carries the chorus and come tell me.
It’s 4:30am; I’m going back to bed.