The release of Asa’s Lucid was a cultural event.
Coming at least a dozen years after her self-titled debut and half a decade after her last album, ‘Bed of Stone’, one can safely conclude that Asa is not as prolific as some of her finest influences. But the counter-argument is an Asa album has a longer shelf-life than your average; that it takes many man hours for the discerning and the repetitive listener to plumb the endless depths of her songs.
Well, the Asa Stan has got 47 minutes of unalloyed music in her forth album. Asa calls it Lucid and like her sophomore ‘Beautiful Imperfection’, Lucid doesn’t carry eponymous anchors. It opens with ‘Murder in USA’, a measured and mournful interpretation of Rihanna’s ‘Mandown’. Perhaps it is rewarding to excavate histories of scorned lovers who committed crimes of passion, but this is 2019, an accomplished songwriter and visionary like Asa could have brought so much more to that table.
This much can be said for the entire album after the umpteenth listen. So much expectations feel dashed. Asa hardly takes new in-roads. There are neither new prisoners nor territories conquered. Nothing here sounds victorious or vanquished. This is, at best, Asa toeing the familiar lines that led her to stardom at least a decade ago.
Her song-writing springs no surprises. Her thematic concerns haven’t strayed out of the various iterations of love. Her sound has remained its blustering self, solemn and measured, cabaret and retired, perhaps even resigned. It all feels like a boring routine and this is the failure of Lucid, to be clear on the terms it wishes to advance Asa’s discography and life work.
‘Asa’, her self-titled debut, recorded twice, felt rehearsed to a hilt and helmed with promise and brimming over with sparkling stardust—and it remains her best, a classic. ‘Beautiful Imperfection’, her second album seemed jaunty and excited about courting an European audience with its newfound heightened tempo. Her third album, ‘Bed of Stone’, looked in the direction of America, depicting mundane dysfunction with tranquillity.
Lucid is an ambitious attempt to collapse the ethos of all the aforementioned albums into a formidable product to keep fans swooning for another half decade. Every direction of advancement feels muted, even her customary picturesque snapshots of Lagos flotsams didn’t carry the magic of the early years.
For every song on Lucid, there is an earlier iteration somewhere up in her discography that dwarfs the latest. Twelve years and four LP albums later, Asa’s career trajectory seems blunted.