Omah Lay’s Boy Alone is a Masterpiece of Exquisite Lyricism – Patrick Ezema
TLR's Top Afrobeats Album of 2022
What is the end of a year without a list? Trust The Lagos Review to hook you up with new writing about some of the music albums that gave this year its oomph. Patrick Ezema makes a case for Omah Lay’s Boy, Alone.
Omah Lay crept into our lives under the cover of the pandemic, a virtual companion at a time when the world frowned at physical ones. With clubs shut, outdoor parties postponed and Zoom weddings in vogue, the choice of music tilted slightly from exuberant Pop towards the mid-tempo groove.
Omah Lay is a ready supplier of the mid-tempo groove. The music of his debut EP, Get Layd, was self-indulgent and decadent, but it still maintained a cheerful demeanour. On Boy Alone, Omah Lay expounds on his descent into the consoling pleasures of drugs and sex—and he does so in what is arguably the most beautiful music from this year.
The entire album features hazy production, so that his voice, like the muffled screams of a drowning man, reaches you from some otherworldly place. Omah Lay reminds us of his waterside origins which ties aptly with the theme of drowning.
On the first track he likens his life to a ship on the waterway — “Only the ship wey believe, e no go capsize”. This confidence becomes self-investiture on ‘I’m a mess’, where he takes a detour from narrating his mood symptoms in the second verse to brag, “Nobody’s better than me/ I do it differently/ Everybody can see.”
On other tracks, melancholia makes no room for affirmative statements on his musical prowess. Instead, he wanders into the familiar bosoms of sex and alcohol. Compared to his previous work, his writing is less startling and more veiled, an improvement in his craft since his 2020 debut. To this effect, the crude ejaculation of “I’ve been drinking, smoking cigars!” on ‘Bad Influence’ is offhandedly delivered as “I poto poto my eye” on the gem ‘Soso’ which targets the dancing crowd and hoards the album’s accolades.
The real gems, like the morose ‘Safe Haven’, are hidden deeper, and may require a quick trip to Google to reveal lyrics and better appreciate the substance of the music. And for those who rate sonic enjoyability over thematic depth, there is just as much satisfaction to be had, as the album swivels round tonic R&B and Indie grounds, to the point where it touches but does not quite grasp Nigerian Pop.
And therein lies the beauty of Boy Alone. Mainstream Nigerian music does fine without exquisite lyricism, and its absence does not mar the Afrobeats-to-the-World movement. When it does appear, like on Omah Lay’s Boy Alone, and with its sonic lushness intact, it should be afforded its accolades.