Fresh off Beyonce’s companion CD; “The Lion King: The Gift”, Yemi Alade has pulled out a fourth LP album almost effortlessly from her back pocket.
Easily the hardest working female Nigerian pop singer, Ms. Alade’s devotion to her discography has ensured that no year has passed, since 2014, without some singles, albums, or deluxe albums making its way into our consciousness right from when she first made our acquaintance with her smash hit, ‘Johnny.’
And her efforts have paid off. She is the biggest Nigerian musical export to other African countries. Ms. Alade and her team understand how popular music works. By doing her songs in translation to French and more recently to Swahili, she has improved her fan base.
Little wonder, she also didn’t pass up the momentum of hype around Mrs Carter’s The Gift. Ms. Alade is known for her matriarchal sounding titles; here she calls herself, Woman of Steel, which speaks auspiciously to willpower and tenacity. At 13 tracks plus two bonus tracks spooling for about 52 minutes, featured acts abound – Duncan Mighty (on ‘Shake’), Angelique Kidjo ( on ‘Shekere’), Rick Ross (on Oh My Gosh Remix) and Funke Akindele in character as Jenifa on ‘Poverty’.
The album is already being throttled into the public consciousness with a Clarence Peters short film (in the fashion of Falz & Simi’s Soldier) stretching her single ‘Home’ into a Nollywood type Cinderella love story (without the wicked sisters).
Even though ‘Home’ is a decent ditty, it still smacks of unoriginality and contradictions. In one verse she is singing about not being Flavour and at the intermission she is suddenly doing the exact same thing Flavour did on his song, ‘Ada Ada’.
Kidjo is reminded of her 90s hit ‘Wombolo’ on ‘Shekere’. This could have been Yemi Alade’s chance to pitch her vocal skills against an Amazon, instead she takes the easy way out and pales on an uninspired belated Highlife cover of ‘Wombolo’.
There are the usual Yemi Alade type songs about bragging (Give Dem), sexual innuendos (Vibe) and unconditional love (Lai Lai).
‘Remind You’ reminds us of the Yemi Alade of King of Queens. She rode a mid-tempo R ‘n’ B beat on that love song with such grace. But with the ease of lightning, she segued back into her actual mode, the low to mid-tempo shuffling, rhythmic percussion of Afrobeats on the part playful, part plaintive, part propositioning ‘Nobody’.
‘Poverty’ is likely to become that song which appeals to the largest demographic and it is already being marketed in that manner with a Kiswahili version. Mid-tempo and riffing off some Onyeka Onwenu tendency, renouncing poverty is an African affectation already and Ms. Alade mines it to full effect. Who knows, this song may find its jaunty way into Pentecostal churches like Korede Bello’s credit alert song, ‘Godwin’.
Yemi Alade goes off-kilter into Reggae mood to deliver a song for kleptocrats in power. She rightly calls them CIA short for ‘Criminal In Agbada’ and riffs off Sound Sultan in way that would have made Fela smile.
Woman of Steel is that rare thing that reminds us of Yemi Alade’s magic which she hasn’t used adequately in the past four years.