“This Wizkid’s new song isn’t sweet,” says the general consensus on Twitter. They are referring to his latest singles, ‘Fever’ and ‘Master Groove,’ which were released with a world of hype, but contain a pop rendition of the singer trying to win a lady’s body and soul, while also providing enough bounce for the dance floor.
In disparate groups, people listened to the records in their houses, home, street corners and gatherings. And the dominant reaction holds it that the records aren’t winners. The core complaint is that these new records possess zero lyrical weight, and don’t show growth in Wizkid’s artistry. They also hold it that Wizkid isn’t evolving in any form, and continues to serve remixes of his popular hits such as ‘Soco’ and ‘Nowo’.
These criticisms hold some truth. Wizkid has shown over time that lyricism isn’t his greatest strength. He has risen to the zenith of African music with this complaint from fans acting as a regular reminder that he can do better. He drops pop bangers, waltzes through the charts, and glides through the criticisms to win the trophies. And if that strategy isn’t broken, and continues to serve him well, why does he need to fix it? Why does he need to roll up his sleeves and through the murky waters of songwriters and lyrical contributors to his music? Why does his art need a shot in the arm, if it can last the distance?
Also, events from 2017 aren’t the most encouraging for him. Wizkid’s project, “Sounds From The Other Side,” was released via Sony. It contained some of the best writing from Wizkid, with lyrics of such high quality that music nerds can read them for fun. That project failed to become a commercial success, and some of the best records from the LP, did not find their way into the hearts of Nigerian fans. These people who demand for an improvement in the quality of the art, did not fully embrace and champion the lyrical project. Why should he fix up?
These demands smack of hypocrisy, and the meaningful arguments that are directed at him are defeated on arrival by the contradictory behaviour of the fans who make these demands. Nigeria is blessed with a universe of talents who are skilled at songwriting. But if you flip through any mainstream chart, the biggest records consider lyricism as an afterthought. At the bottom of the pile, and in underground circles of the music industry, a fountain of lyricism flows. But that fact is also believed to be the reason why those records never break through the mainstream and into public consciousness. How many times have alternative acts been told to “dumb it down” for the people? How long have they been kept away from the gateways of pop success because their music sounds “too smart,” to be consumed by the general populace? How many of these ‘dope’ artists would champion building a niche community in public, but go home to their beds and cry about the elusive nature of pop recognition and acceptance?
Wizkid and his handlers know this. There are numerous reasons why his art needs to be reviewed. His sonics are good, his delivery continues to be diversified, and if he intends to keep up with his ascent, and consolidate all his gains, there has to be something more than the beat and his unique vocals. Ideally, the sweet spot remains to meet people half-way where there’s a healthy mix of technical and lyrical quality, which would pretty much get these people to his side. But again, that is impossible.
Art isn’t made with a list of rules in mind. Most creators just get up, listen to their hearts, connect with a vibe, and create music that is a reflection of their artistry. Sometimes, they score a good one. Sometimes they don’t. The basic difference between the leaders and the stragglers, are the frequency of hits. Wizkid is a leader. He is the reference point for a lot of good happening with African music right now. He is eating good, his seeds are germinating, his skin is clear, and his water is abundant.
Perhaps the fans need to know this. They need to understand that the art that is shared with them was made from a desire to just get them to dance. Perhaps they need to be educated that Wizkid’s choice of music was partly informed by a strategy built on their consumer behaviour. You can’t champion ‘Soco’, turn up to it on your birthday, your wedding, and all other celebratory moments, while trashing ‘Master groove and ‘Fever’. You cannot eat this cake, and still have it. The music is a reflection of our true needs and desire. Until we back our words with actions, and prove to artists that what is on the menu isn’t what we crave, we are bound to have moments when we are let down by art from our leading musicians.