Rave & Roses LP Played to Rema’s Strengths – Eriomala John
TLR's Top Afrobeats Albums of 2022
What is the end of a year without a list? Trust The Lagos Review to hook you up with some new writing about some of the music albums that gave this year its oomph. Read Eriomala John’s consideration of Rema’s Rave and Roses
After three distinct EPs and a superb run of singles, Rema, discovered by D’Prince, delivered an astonishing full length album. At 59 minutes and 16 tracks (with no songs less than three minutes long) Rave & Roses goes against the format of recent debut LPs. There’s a uniformity to the sound and a thematic unison that shows artistic evolution which is expected.
On the intro ‘Divine’Rema offered a fable on the extraordinary circumstances of his birth. Over strings and Sarz’s signature shakers, he depicted a victorious mystical battle over doubts and demons, an ascension into divinity. As the project progresses, one thing is evident: If Rema is indeed divine, he is Eros (or Cupid) not Orunmila.
Through his song writing, listeners experience Rema the ‘sexual healer’ (‘Soundgasm’, ‘Dirty’, ‘Hold Me’), and Rema the Casanova (‘Calm Down’, ‘Mara’ and ‘Time N Affection’) coalesce into Rema the juvenile lover on the outro, ‘Runaway.’ Metaphors, melodies, and lamba are used to express affection, and a longing for romance. Although one can argue that the writing was several notches lower on songs like ‘Carry’, ‘Jo’,and ‘Oroma Baby’, the others match the aspirational “Rose” deployed on the album title.
Rave & Roses delivered two beautiful songs of 2022; ‘Addicted’and ‘Are You There?’The former is a hybrid of 070 Shake and Twenty-Tens Daft Punk over luxuriant production. Synths! Drums! Heavenly 80s Plug-in! A masterful ode to self-destructive lovers and the consequential melancholy they live with. ‘Are You There?’, on the other hand, sees Rema turn on those critical of his songwriting. He makes a valid case against being fixated on sociopolitical records.
On the production side, the synergy between all parties involved is evident. Everyone from Executive Producer London, who worked on 12 of 16 tracks, to Andre Vibez, Kel P, 1 Mind, Altims, Higo, etc. brought their A-game. One only has to listen to the orchestral segue leading into ‘Hold Me’or the spatial insanity on ‘FYN’ for undeniable proof of teamwork.
Admittedly, the choice of international artists came as a surprise but worked perfectly. 6lack and Chris Brown – both regulars to Afrobeats – provided tasty RnB spice, AJ Tracey’s Grimey yet luxurious bars complemented Rema’s braggadocio, and French act, Yseult’s sultry delivery was the icing on the cake for ‘Wine’.Perhaps, there could have been space for The Weeknd or Travis Scott on ‘Addicted’, if there’ll ever be one on a deluxe iteration of the album.
Rave & Roses works for the right reasons. It plays to Rema’s strengths while avoiding sonic complacency or over-dependence on production chops.