I’ve finally decided what genre to place Adekunle Gold in: folk afro-pop with highlife roots. He’s currently the king of the folk afro-pop genre as far as I’m concerned, with Simi as the reigning queen. Emerging as one of the most exciting new voices in Nigerian music in the past year, it’s remarkable to learn that he’s only been here a short while. On his debut album, Gold, he crafts a well produced and excellently written album that explores the emotions and feelings of a modern Nigerian man—something we don’t see very often. It’s an impressive debut with a distinct and confident point of view.
Having an intro on your debut album seems almost mandatory for Nigerian artists and while it works for some, it falls flat for others. Fortunately, Adekunle finds himself in the former category on this one. Gold (Intro), though not perfect, is somehow quiet and powerful at the same time with no over-singing or unnecessary dramatics, just storytelling.
My Life bounces in with it’s celebratory horns and infectious Yoruba percussions present in the form of talking drums. It possesses a somewhat gospel vibe with the singer attributing his success to The Creator and basically not giving a care as to how he’s told to live his life. The highlife groove continues with Beautiful Night, a sweet easygoing party jam that encourages lovers to seize those moments in time and get lost in each other. Things slow down quite a bit with Orente and Nurse Alabere serving as introspective tracks that showcase his songwriting strengths. The former, which was a sleeper hit late last year, is a sparkling gem heralding love and romance while the latter is a heart wrenching ballad which at some points threatens to be a snooze-fest but picks up immediately thanks to the production.
Friend Zone increases the tempo with it’s bright production to create a fun, party number which is the total opposite of the title and everything the term represents. As if to say: “Look we’re having a laugh and all but I’m serious.” It’s not one of the best tracks but it seems like a sure pop hit.
The track lineup from Paradise to Work is one the very best I’ve heard from a Nigerian pop album in recent years. Pheelz lends his creative eye to the Afro-trap&b production of Paradise, thereby helping to create a chill love song perfect for laying on the grass under the stars—tambolo be damned. The best track on the album comes with the Simi assisted No Forget. This is afro-pop balladry at it’s best. Everything about the track from the cinematic background vocals to the organic production and that gorgeous harmony between these two just works on so many levels. I can already see this being a classic if he ever decides to release it as a single.
To prevent us from getting too much in our feelings, he picks up the pace once again for Pick Up, an afro-pop jam released as a single in January that has gone on to become a smash hit within and outside the country. It’s one of the best songs released this year. The party continues with Work—This title may seem overused but in this case it works (no pun intended) by eschewing sexual undertones and emphasizing the value of earning your money and a good name through the use of humorous lyrics and light afrobeat production.
Ariwo Ko’s production upon first listen gave me 2Face Idibia (now 2Baba) vibes circa 2005. I love the songwriting once again. Consider this a middle fingers up anthem to the noisemakers and empty barrels who are quick to spew rubbish. I think Bella Naija commenters have finally found their theme song. Ready hits all the right spots in the same vein as Pick Up and sees the artist once again searching for a lover. This is a jam for the singles that are still searching for bae. Adekunle is our group leader. He could have done without the album closer Sweet Me to be honest. It’s a fun track don’t get me wrong but it’s more fun filler than banger. His breakout hit Sade, is included as a bonus track and really highlights how much he has grown as an artist when compared to rest of the album. Adekunle Gold has made a solid body of work that sets him apart from some of his peers that arrived before him and at the same time carving out a niche of his own. I’m interested to see which road he travels next.