Music Review: Asa’s Risk Pays Off On 5th Album, “V” – Dami Ajayi

Coming less than three years since Lucid, her safest album in terms of aesthetic adventure, French-Nigerian singer Asa’s fifth album titled V might be her most experimental work yet.

At 10 tracks and almost 31 minutes, there is hardly a musical note that has not earned its place on this project. Classics are difficult to call so early but I daresay V is already one and here’s why: Asa comes from the tradition of guitar-strumming cabaret-styled fusion of soul (& African rhythms, her flair) so her specialty is melancholia.

Her music, like life, is fired by love, in its different iterations. It is love in motion, passive or active, sour or sweet, but expectedly the dark side always wins. V is the much needed departure, precisely what the world needs in these COVID times.

Asa plays to her strength, her lean lyrics. She goes for the froth; plays more to  rhythm, less to blues and soul. Her music is totally unrecognisable to the undiscerning stan. The afrobeats maracas shuffle, warm acoustic guitar riffs, grumbling highlife basslines and a recalcitrant mid-tempo gives the album an atmospheric, joyous mood.

The warning shots of her earlier singles ‘Mayana’ and ‘Ocean’ is simply an A&R masterclass. These radical experiments are false water that give way to a more consistent track list as the listening experience progresses.

She carries that afrobeats insouciant abandon in her scat singing on ‘IDG’, outperforming Wizkid. ‘Nike’ sees the return of vintage Asa, the baroness of unrequited love. ‘Good Times’ is a homage to South African music, a capella rhythms, and our resilient selves who have outlived Covid. Somewhere between the evangelical pristineness of Panam Percy Paul and the black pride of Paul Simon’s Graceland, I think you will find the enthused warmth of  Eddie Okwedy’s ‘Happy Survival’ courtesy The Cavemen.

Asa’s hero is the 20 year old wunderkind P.Priime  who helmed V’s production. He gave Asa the much-needed seismic shift to her sound and may have brought her that much coveted trolley, the mainstream.

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