Yellow Is Brymo’s Best Artistic Achievement – Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera (Un-edited)
On the first day of April, Brymos’s seventh studio album, Yellow dropped and as expected, it is currently the most talked about musical project in the country at the moment. The album has attracted what we might call widespread reactions, mostly admiration, and some loud criticism from cultural critics. There has also been a debate on what position the album ranks in Brymo’s discography. Brymo himself has argued that Yellow is the best of all his projects, because in a short space of time, it has outplayed all his other projects. But the critic, Oris Aigbekhaevbolo stated in his review that while Yellow is a very good album, Tabula Rasa remains Brymo’s masterpiece, followed by Merchants Dealers and Slaves; Dami Ajayi in his review stated that Yellow ranks behind Brymo’s three previous projects. I have listened to Brymo’s three previous albums and Yellow and I think perhaps, there is another perspective the critics might have not taken into consideration about the Yellow album.
Brymo’s evolution from the R&B savvy artiste who delivered the album, Brymstone in 2007 to the philosophical-storytelling-poetic artiste as we know him today, is not new to anyone who has really listened to him. And of course, this evolution is not peculiar to Brymo. There are other artistes in the industry who have had similar evolution, especially those of them who are said to have rebranded the face of Afro-pop. But not all of them like Brymo belong to the alternative music genre, which people like Brymo, Asa, Johnny Drille, Adekunle Gold and some others could be grouped into. A listener comes to the song of an artiste like Brymo, expecting to hear stories, philosophies embodying a poetic view of life and the ordinary man in general, and even love. This is what he has achieved with his last three projects. The storytelling in Tabula Rasa is haunting as well as unforgettable, Klitoris is one of the most sensual albums I have listened to, and in Oso, he reached a philosophical height. The album Yellow takes us to an almost different direction from what we have been used to in these projects, this in my opinion is because of the wild experimentation across different genres and sounds, and a shift towards the poetry Cartesian, particularly in the first third of the album. This, arguably makes the album a little high-handed for a first time listener.
The first song Espirit de corps makes an extensive use of alliteration which reflects boldly in the sounds. The alliteration and the hardcore sound is both remarkable in its meaning and its poetry. I particularly like the place which said, “A bitch had a hetch with a ditch/ Kiss and tell/Snitches got bitches, bitches got the stitches to tell…” Also, the hook and the vocal prowess shown there cannot be easily overlooked, likewise the very impressive and energetic performance in Blackmail. Ozymandias, a very beautiful song which expresses the futility of power and deceit. Ozymandias is something of an event in the poetic world in general. The Romanticist poet of the 18th century, Percy Shelley and his friend, Horace Smith had written ballads on Ozymandias in a friendly challenge. And both poems have since gone into history as their most well-known poems. A whole essay could be written on this particular song and what and what meanings could be inferred from it. Dami Ajayi posits that Brymo did not show working in Heartbreak Songs Are Better In English, but he fails to tell us why he thinks so, because the song appears well-written and well performed as has been said in many other reviews. I shall not go on to state my opinions of the individual songs, but Yellow is definitely remarkable in its infusion of new sounds and vocals, the writing is as impressive as it ever has, and more poetic than ever, particularly in the adaption of the ballad form and its remodeling into something more African, particularly in the Gambu. I love the song Gambu, for the effortless success of the infusion of sounds and its authentic Africanness which reminds me of Fela’s music. My favourite part of the album is the last part which consists of Adedotun, A’ Feedu Fan’na, which reminds me of Indian love song though it typically depicts the praise of a child who fans flames from coals, and the very soulful O run moorun and the last song, Abu Ya performed in Igbo by Lindsey Abudei. This sentiment might change with time though.
Based on artistic merit, Yellow is a very beautiful album. It is in a certain sense, very different from whatever Brymo has done, but it still bears marked similarities with some of his previous projects. But despite these similarities, it cannot be totally judged with the same yardstick with which his previous recent projects were judged, not because it falls short, but because the album, Yellow strives to achieve something totally different. The album moves in an alternative artistic dimension, something not many Nigerian artistes have the vision to do. This is perhaps, why I do not totally agree with Dami Ajayi’s review, because in his critical analysis, he has not taken all these into cognizance. There is also the fact that I have failed to see how the writing in songs like Espirit De Corps and Heartbreak Songs Are Better In English fall short of what Brymo has done before. The lyrical depth and insights are maintained in each of these songs and the melodies and poetry are deepened. Yellow has certainly offered us something new in the Nigerian musical scene, something that we are likely to keep talking about even years from now. And rather than posing a question if this is the beginning of the decline of the artiste that Brymo is, I believe, it is a game-changer in his career, and a call to his listeners to a deeper plunge in the talent of the artiste. Yellow is indeed a different and great album.