Album review: Little joy to be found on Wizkid’s Ayo

by Wilfred Okiche

Excitement for Wizkid’s long awaited sophomore effort, Ayo (Joy) probably dampened once the album’s track list made its way to the internet in early September. At 19 tracks long, the record- his last with record label Empire Mates Entertainment (EME)- seemed at once like a hot mess of familiar tracks, usual suspect producers (Sarz, Legendary beats Del B), previously released material and generally uninspiring music.

It is.

Ayo (Joy) never recovers from the let-down of that dull track list and no amount of superstar charm can save it from instantly forgettable status. The record opens with Jaiye Jaiye, a collaboration with Femi Kuti which was released eons ago; back when Burna Boy was still hot and Davido hadn’t made Aye yet.

Jaiye Jaiye is a competent duet but it is one unlikely to enjoy classic status and its novelty has already started to wear off. Something with more immediacy can be found on the next track, the Shizzi-produced Show you the money but this Shoki-inspired club banger isn’t going to last past its sell by date either.

Show you the money segues seamlessly into the auto-tune heavy In my bed, and even though the latter is from a different producer (South Africa’s Uhuru), the songs are so similar in their structure and basic, desperate need to get you off your feet that they might as well be the same extended mix. Similar fare follows in quick succession and Wizkid’s plan becomes obvious about midway into the record. He wants to hammer you into submission with his mega beats, big name producers, loud, glossy production values and distinct wail.

This doesn’t work. Not in the least. Sure you are forced to dance along to the hot guitar and big drum sequence of On top your matter, but its tepid copycat, Kind love makes almost no sense. Ditto, the Banky W assisted follow up, Dutty whine. Or the Sean Tizzle rip off, Kilofe

Taken as a whole, Ayo isn’t without redemption and Wizkid will surely reap hit singles from the record well into 2015. It is purely feel good stuff and revellers will find plenty to be occupied by. Songs like Ojuelegba and In love (with Seyi Shey) are expertly crafted and cross the afro-pop line to appeal to none hard core fans. He attempts some ragga-lite sound on the title track, Joy and it is on these songs that he offers a peep at the kind of good stuff he could be capable of if he is blessed with the right direction. But as the album hints, he may well have grown too huge for Banky W to put a handle on.

There is a reprisal of his monster hit Pakurumo on Mummy mi, an ode to mama, where he melds the thick sweaty throbbing of Fuji music with his slick pop appeal and Akon sounds convincingly Nigerian on the otherwise boring For you.

The problem with Ayo then is its monotony, about half of the songs sound the same as Wizkid keeps his eye only on the clubs and party grounds. In the space of 3 years since his debut, Wizkid has seen his star grow bigger but he has not even bothered to learn to sing properly. On his debut Superstar, his refreshing sugary sing song delivery was cute and played like music to the ear largely because it was coming from this adorable kid, but countless singles later, this style has begun to sound jarring. And it doesn’t say much of him that a star in his position would not bother to improve on their craft. Even Rihanna, his new pal and international sound alike, tries to sing once in a while (Stay, Only girl in the world). And she does succeed at it.

A good portion of Ayo is painful to the ears, mostly when Wizkid attempts to scale notes that he hasn’t properly practiced. This lazy approach almost ruins some of the slower songs on the album when he screeches the troublesome notes and even the big beats cannot cover the vocal deficiencies on the upbeat tracks.

With great power, they say comes responsibility but on Ayo, Wizkid is still enslaved by trendy dictates and ignores the weighty expectations of playing in the big leagues. There is little sign of artistic growth and he keeps operating at a level he should have left behind with his debut.

At this rate, it is only a matter of time before he gets left behind.

 

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