Adekunle Gold’s Debut Crowns Him The New Poster Boy of Affection

Released a few days shy of its scheduled date, Adekunle Gold’s debut album, Gold, was not billed to become the surprise it became. Blame it on the need to be (in) the news, break the internet, initiate trends (especially via hashtags) but these surprises are a pop culture trick we know too well. Bottom line: the album is out and, as far as we know, it has percolated deep into Nigeria, as far as Esie, Kwara state.

2016 has been a slow year for music albums but folks at YBNL continue to reinforce their street credibility with soldier-ant-like work ethic. Closely following Lil Kesh’s debut, YAGI, is Adekunle Gold’s self-titled long play album, a 14 track album with a short intro and a bonus track.

With production credits from Seyikeyz on two songs— ‘My life’ & ‘Nurse Alabere’—as well as the intro; Oscar on four songs; B Banks, Sleekamo and Masterkraft on a song each and Pheelz producing a whooping six songs, Gold is well established YBNL project.

Adekunle Gold is no longer new to our music-scape; he came to us by way of a cover of One Direction’s ‘Story of my life’. Although not his first, it became his song that broke the barriers of obscurity and set him on the path of a YBNL record deal. Sade, immortalized in Adekunle Gold’s discography as a bonus track, is a solemn epistolary love ballad directed to the eponymous Sade by a love-lorn and presumably para-suicidal bachelor in his 30s begging for her hand in marriage. Adekunle’s treatment of this song in humorous Yoruba is partly serious but ultimately melodious with an acoustic feel that ever so often gives way to the assertive percussion that became the song’s hook. Little wonder, the song grew into a monster hit.

Gold has since moved away from Natialo Productions where that hit was made into the stables of Oscar Heman-Ackah, unsung genius of mid-tempo Afro-soul hits and the producer of his second big hit, ‘Orente’, which, sort of, sealed Adekunle Gold’s fate as the spokesman of the typical upwardly mobile male lover.

‘Orente’ is, on the one hand, a praise song but on the other hand it also charts popular Nigerian songs and phrases like ‘Alobam’, ‘Girlie-O’ and ‘Dorobucci’. This knack for the double entendre is consistent through out the entire Gold album.

The Gold album presents Adekunle as the new poster boy of affection. Yes, the album sometimes insists on becoming a paean to breakthrough but it also marries this with love matters that often grapple with infidelity (in ‘Temptation’), long distance relationships (‘No Forget’ with Simi), physical intimacy (‘Beautiful Night’) and (‘Fight for you’). Every other song, in different ways, speaks to the struggles of the modern African man who aspires to some measure of stability, nay wealth.

Adekunle Gold is deeply Yoruba. One can tell from his dress sense: a love for African prints in his videos as well as at Red Carpets. On the cover of this album, he is garbed in a gold agbada to match his roman gold leaf wreath, presumably an accessory to identify him as royalty amongst the upwardly mobile.

His motivational dance song, ‘Pick Up’, his third hit, speaks to his role as the henchman or as the Pentecostals will say, the point of contact, for those seeking material wealth lurking within the realms of divine favour. With this thematic concern, Adekunle Gold clearly identifies with the mood of Juju music of the austere period during Nigeria’s dictatorship. In the wake of recent economic turmoil, this song is the elixir we need to stir us through hard times. And besides treating serious issues with fervor, it also serves that other important purpose: dance.

In tandem with the biblical convention of faith comes the song, ‘Work’, where he admonishes the modern man to embrace hard work while making economically sound lifestyle choices. This counsel can not be more apt. We are in the era of the Urban Poor, being middleclass has gone from a nebulous aspiration to a lifestyle pursued beyond the limit of pragmatic choices. Adekunle Gold merges his social change project with deep modern reflection and humour.

With his language negotiating between Pidgin English and Yoruba, Adekunle Gold’s debut hardly strays from mid-tempo ballads situated within Highlife and modern folklore. This requires that there is a marriage of sorts between both digital and analog techniques as acknowledged in the credits for numerous session instrumentalists. The most accomplished of these sonic dime-pieces is the gospel-tinged ‘My Life’. However, Adekunle Gold occasionally experiments out of his comfort zone like he did on the song, ‘Ariwo Ko’, which leans into Bollywood music.

On ‘Friend Zone’, he updates Lagbaja’s ‘Anything for Me’ with modern registers and by the time the album spools to ‘Ready’, his fourth hit, the album approaches its nadir. Credits must be given for the arrangement of the tracklist with every column of new songs punctuated with an accomplished hit in the fashion of Lil Kesh’s YAGI. 

With Gold, Adekunle joins the ranks of Brymo, Darey Art-Alade, BankyW, Timi Dakolo as one of our foremost male crooners, but he is differentiated of course, by his Yoruba lilt reminiscent of traditional music forms like Juju and Highlife.

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