Forget ventilators, Oxlade has the “Oxygene” – Joy Dennis

Chalk it up to the advent of  ‘Soundcloud music’ – the alté scene – which began a couple of years back or the unprecedented rise of African pop music (afrobeats) on the global music scene, which started around the time Wizkid’s music began appealing to a wide foreign audience.

But, something definitely hit the Nigerian music industry and while there’s still a few mainstream garbage out there, the last few years, last year in particular, has witnessed the inadvertent ‘re-birth’ of what fans call “good music”. It has even altered the trajectory of the afro sound, altogether.

It’s something magical, to say the least. And not three, not five, but quite a number of young talented dudes have been part of this magic show. Today, though, is about Oxlade, a Surulere boy with a vibrant energy, an unmatched vocal capability and sheer songwriting skills. Plus, he looks up to Wizkid.

While he’s been doing his ‘thing’ solo and underground for a while, in 2019 he got the spotlight. No smash record, but he still got due recognition at the Headies and performed at Wizkid’s sold out show at the O2 Arena in London.

At the very least, for someone with no previous project, who’s still regarded as ‘upcoming’ in his circle, to be placed on such a pedestal meant that he had to deliver. “Oxygene”, a 6-track EP project is the supposed delivery, and for what it’s worth, all of his career should probably be judged based on this ‘album’. For the time being, that is. 

On the opener, “O2”, Oxlade sings about his love interest who’s like oxygen, and metaphorically the air he breathes. This track comes across as some ‘Fireboy’ sound, but even better, with the exquisite backup vocals he laces it with.

“Hold On” has heavy percussions and some soothing chords. Oxlade drops words, a tad bit more than necessary. Such that the song loses its sing-along value. But he does quite the repetition. Somebody’s been listening to some Wizkid. 

As the Spax jingle jingled and the drums followed, you just know you’re in for something light. The highlife sound, “Away” is a “lituation” vibe, a full cup of palm wine music.

“Kokose” is the new afro-fusion, a mashup of highlife and some Fela sounds. There is too much vibration, Oxlade barely says anything ‘meaningful’. Another ‘dance away’ track.

“Weakness” has a minimalist afro production and listening, Tekno’s “Pana” comes to mind. Oxlade sings, dropping his bars at length, and once again, making use of his vocal ability to deliver a nice feel.

A hustle story and a dose of motivation is what we get on “Tables Turn,” as Oxlade asks if we believe in Karma? Not to worry, he’s not expecting an answer. Although Moelogo outperformed him with his one verse, the most important thing is they don’t sound alike one bit. Logic says, Oxlade is unique.

Overall, “Oxygene” evinces hard work from an ambitious (and talented) young kid, but arguably none of the tracks sound like a song that can penetrate the mainstream and become a smash hit, based on its merit as a single. The EP, however, shows promise and if anything tells us, he can definitely do better. 

People love Oxlade and want to listen to what he’s got to offer, and truth be told, numbers really don’t lie. But after one or two listens, you start to discover, you can unsurprisingly do without this weird kind of ‘oxygen’. 

* Joy Dennis is a savvy teenage writer and a Philosophy undergrad at the University of Lagos.

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