Tiwa Savage’s Celia, her third LP album, stakes its claim to fame right from its title.
Named after her mother, who shares the name with Salsa singer Celia Cruz after whom Anqeliue Kidjo’s Grammy winning album was named and released in the last days of August seems like a rash of coincidences.
And if Afrobeats only nominee for the Grammys, so far, recruited ace music executive, Diddy, to A n R his Twice as Tall riposte, Tiwa Savage is showcasing more of the familiar.
The album opens with the groovy ‘Save My Life’, a song as much about dance as it is about sex. The raunchy anticipation of a life-saving orgasm makes a worthy gambit of a mating dance. Switching between Yoruba and English on a shaku-shaku compliant percussion, it is vintage Tiwa and a strong opener.
If the unimpressed is curious enough to listen further, they may be enthralled by ‘Temptation’ with vocal assists from Sam Smith and additional writing by Fireboy DML. It is that tired boy meets girl trope all over again with a subtle Afrobeat shuffle that renders it safe and almost hypnotic.
Naira Marley is golden on ‘Ole’, a song about grades of larceny and the closest the album comes to political commentary. ‘Koroba’ features syncopating rhythms and Tiwa shrugs off gossips about her affiliation with Nigerian politicians. It is a lively response to a pungent rumour. The public gaze on Tiwa’s personal life has shown some savagery, pun intended, but she does not break a sweat in shrugging them off with sultry reprisals.
‘Bombay’ revisits Wizkid’s classic tune on bantu buttocks. With more assists from Dice Ailes than Steflon, Dice seems to be cornered to being at best Wizkid’s surrogate in spite of his competence. If Wizkid is conspicuously missing on Celia, his arch-rival, Davido, is present on the tepid duet, ‘Park Well’, clamouring for devotion and restraint within a romantic dalliance.
‘Us’ (unfairly characterised as an interlude) brings back memories of the good old R and B days of Tiwa Savage which she has all but abandoned. Calling ‘Us’ an interlude seemed quite deliberate and telling, Ms Savage has been privileging her late Afrobeats leaning over her early beginnings which tilted towards the blues, urban soul and pop.
The other half of the album beginning with ‘Us’ leans heavily into those early beginnings. The songs are seemingly more emotive, perhaps because they dwell more on matters of love. If the first half of the album dwells on the blossoming of new affection, the second is obsessed with the ways love withers. Complaints are numerous and skewed to the view point of a female lover insisting on some measure of requited affection.
Celia, in this way, is not much different from the typical Tiwa Savage album. Since her debut album, she has always found a way to yoke dance and romance as the fulcrum of her expression. What has improved is her synergy with Afrobeats music producers and her ability to meander between her dual leanings effortlessly. What is at stake is the much-touted but elusive Grammy nomination.