Simi’s Third LP To Be Honest is a Diaristic Love Letter – Emmanuel Daraloye
Simisola Bolatito Kosoko who performs as Simi is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, actress, and sound engineer. Simi began as a chorister in church. At age ten, she was already belting out songs rousing the congregation to worship.
She solidified her formative years with the release of her debut 12-track album, Ogaju, in 2008. This experimental project enjoyed radio play. Off this album, songs like “Ara Ile” and “So Fly” remain relevant as Sunday tonic.
Simi switched to pop music in the early 2010s. She covered popular local and international hits. This was a way of grounding herself, experimenting with sounds, and showcasing her vocal range. An extended play album, Restless, was released in 2014 with mild acclaim. In retrospect, this lukewarm reception could be attributed to her novelty status in the industry and, more crucially, the lack of support from a record label.
Simi signed to the Steve Babaeko-owned X3M record label in April 2014. She said in an interview, “I joined [X3M Record Label] because of the structure, the team, and the drive and financial backing is there and it’s a place where you have to break the norm…”
She kicked the door open with the whimsical and mid-tempo “E No Go Funny”. A year later, Simi breezed into everyone’s stereo with the comical “Jamb Question.” By the time she released the remix assisted by rapper Falz, Simi was well on her way to becoming the poster female artiste. She lived up to this expectation with hit songs “Joromi” and “Smile for Me.”
This beautiful sonic run culminated in the release of Simi’s genre-blending album Simisola in 2017. And like fine wine, the album has aged well. While Simi embarked on her journey, her relationship with rapper Falz came under scrutiny from the press and fans alike. They capitalized on this curiosity and their sonic chemistry on the love-themed duet Chemistry EP.
But Simi’s heart was always elsewhere. Songs like “No forget”, “Take Me Back” and the wedding-themed “Promise” were duets with then-boyfriend, Adekunle Gold. They solemnized their relationship in 2019.
Simi suffered a sophomore slump with Omo Charlie Champagne Vol 1. Although songs like “Ayo” and “Love Dun Care” stood out, the sonic similarities with her debut album were punishingly glaring.
In 2019, Simi left X3M and founded her independent label, Studio Brat records. Her departure from X3M brought another layer to Simi’s artistry and branding. Simi gave a fresh metaphor to motherhood with the release of her hit record “Duduke” in 2020. The mood was so infectious that people who were not nursing or expecting a baby joined in this celebration of a salient aspect of our humanity.
In the last two years, Simi has been at the forefront of women’s emancipation. She crafted the Fela Anikulapo-Kuti-inspired “Woman”. While the experiment flopped, the message was clear; women deserve more. Simi followed this with the release of her third studio album, To Be Honest, her second project under her independent label and her first since the birth of her child.
At 31 minutes, 11 seconds, To Be Honest, is Simi’s shortest album, two minutes shorter than Omo Charlie Champagne Vol 1. The first voice on To Be Honest is her daughter’s and the second is her husband, Adekunle Gold. On the opener “Story Story” she regales listeners with a coming-of-age story, reeling out landmarks and timelines.
“Loyal” evaluates the place of trust in friendships and relationships. Fave lends her enchanting vocals to this track, she rides on a patois-inflected rhythm which, on multiple listens, makes her the star of the show.
On “Born Again” features a perky bass line with acoustic guitar flourishes giving a highlife feel. Simi demonstrates her vocal range, switching between dancehall and Afrobeats ethos.
“Naked Wire”, the lead single, builds on an emotional rollercoaster. It finds Simi letting her guards down. It tells a love story in which the song persona is vulnerable in the way she professes her love. Simi’s vocals effortlessly float on the song’s mid-tempo production.
“Logba Logba” brings back the lush guitar lines splattered on “Ayo” from her sophomore. It seems like a passionate message to Adekunle Gold if Simi is the song persona.
On “Joy” Simi tries her hand at Techno music. It is not a successful experiment as she struggles with her sparse lyrics. On “Temper”, Simi explores dancehall singing about her accomplishments.
“Nobody” weighs in on unrequited love. A lover seems to ask her love interest if the feelings are reciprocated. On “Love for Me”, the final song, is a juju-leaning quasi-gospel tune, Simi expresses her gratitude and love for God.
To Be Honest sees Simi slide into different moods and themes; it starts with a brooding opener, slips into a perky mood on “Born Again” enters an Owambe mood on “Logba Logba” and comes full raw on “No Joy”.
TBH finds Simi at her most reflective and mature stage, the album serves as a sonic diary of her last two years. While lyrical prowess has never been her problem, her pen game is more matured. With few collaborators, Simi takes the listeners back to her debut’s mood but these days she’s married and a mother. Life has been lived, experiences have been garnered, and these 11 songs reflect this.