What has Victor AD gained with “Red Eye?”

Victor AD was one of our original discoveries last year, alongside Teni The Entertainer. The apt description would be to call them the Ying and Yang rising stars of 2018.

Fast forward to 2019 and things didn’t quite follow the prophesy. While Teni continued on her upward trajectory with release of hit after hit, consistent touring and colourful music videos, Victor AD’s output was a bit less measured and more muted.

There was the ‘Tire’ song with Davido, which was original but ineffectual—and if Victor AD had made the more strategic decision of letting OBO jump on ‘Wetin We Gain’ instead, he may have maximised his gains. Instead, he chose to test the shelf-life of a good single.

It has been about one year since ‘Wetin We Gain’ caught on like wild fire from Accra to Lagos and back. Victor Adere has finally released his EP called Red Eye. Short of 30 minutes spool time, Red Eye is seven songs of unadorned Victor AD singing by himself with six producers collaborating with him

The roster of producers includes industry favourites like T-Spize of Aiye fame, Kel P Vibes, Freddie Beat., Jay Synths and Kul Boy Beat who produced two songs, ‘Kowo Wole’ and ‘Fact’.

The album begins with ‘Left Pocket’.

Like ‘Wetin We Gain’, it seems patterned like a prayer, presumably of Victor AD demanding God to place the money to  purchase a Rolls Royce in his left pocket.

First thought: definitely not Naira. Victor AD needs forex, like we all do, but the notion of slipping money into pockets is not a tidy figurative expression these days. We all prefer bank alerts.

‘Vanessa’ is a song about the eponymous fire dancer challenging the singer persona’s marital fidelity with her irresistible charm. He acquiesces to the slow death that is coming his way by affirming in Yoruba, that she will kill him. That cliché is not only well-known, it has been over-used.

The Kul Boy Beat produced ‘Kowo Wole’ sets us back in money-seeking mode. The most biting insight about Victor AD is that he sings way better about money than any other thing. ‘Kowo Wole’ has got a delightful refrain that packs pidgin idioms and figurative language reminiscent of Original Stereoman (Sample Ekwe) of the Ajegunle Dancehall era.

Victor AD is definitely more refined than Stereoman. His music is paced and marketed for a much larger market. There is nothing niche here. This Warri Boy is setting up stage for the world. Ghana is already in his right pocket and this is telling when you consider the sophisticated acoustic palates of the Ghanaians.

‘Fact’ strolls in and a checkered pattern of songs about love and money is established. ‘Doh’ is steeped in street sayings that aim for wit but end up being weird.

‘Red Eye’ has got a decent mid-tempo dancehall ring to it even if it is steeped in biography, Warri bravado and some fascinating bass solos. It is not the kind of song to shake a party into being, it is better suited to easy car listening.

The last song, ‘Kpokpo Didi’ is an onomatopoeic rendering of the heart beat and presumably about affection. Victor AD sings about the valiant conquests he hopes to achieve. What is confounding: tenderness and violence have never co-existed with such ease on a song.

The album draws to an underwhelming close. It takes several listens for it to grab your attention and even when it does, none of these songs touches the relentless passion of ‘Wetin We Gain’.

This is problematic because Victor AD has continued to court, ‘Wetin We Gain’. Perhaps his intention with this EP was to capitalise on that singular success and draw it out into something bigger, however Red Eye underwhelms for this same reason: ‘Wetin We Gain’ cannot be improved upon.

His love songs are muted, tongue-in-cheek affectionate but hardly ever visceral in the way he sings about the need to break out of poverty.

Last year, I wrote an enthusiastic profile of Victor AD and the most salient question I asked was, Will Victor AD become trapped within the confines of his urban-poor ghetto-breakout ditty?

In retrospect, if this question had been considered and answered there would have been no need for this album.

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