The unwanted child of Nigerian music has finally proved the market wrong with the release of his debut album, Boo of the booless, arguably the best project released so far this year. Chike’s journey is one of triumph, failure and reinvention. It is a journey that has seen him perform well at two of the biggest music talent shows – Project Fame and The Voice Nigeria – but fail to get going afterwards.
This, in spite of a record deal with Universal Music Africa, which birthed his debut single “Fancy U”. A lot of social media critics already quipped about how Chike needs to give it a rest. But with this new project – Boo of the Booless, he seems to have a new formula, one that shows his skilled penmanship, vocal range and creativity – let’s break it down.
Subject matter and content
Chike’s album explores relatable themes like finding love, losing it, forgiveness, a mother’s love for her son and insecurities. Like Brymo, Ric Hassani (who features on the afro-pop song “Nakupenda”) and a lot of the alte acts of today, Chike has narrowed his messaging down to personal topics that cut across a spectrum of listeners, all delivered with the slow-mid tempo guitar riffs and sonically adept vocals. He talks about how the people in your life affect you in “Beautiful People” and staying faithful despite affection for another on “Faithful”. On the solemn, piano-driven “Forgive”, he talks about the need to forgive while insecurities in a relationship are the focal point of “Insecure.”
Personally, I think Nigerian music generally lacks depth in terms of the writing. All the tungba (aka pop) acts have not proven themselves in terms of their penmanship. This delta between the melody/beats and arrangement of a typical Nigerian record and the writing on said record is what Chike has done away with on this project. Boo of the Booless comes through with the caliber of writing similar to that on Fireboy DML’s Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. He doesn’t use unnecessarily complicated themes in the stories he’s telling, opting for simple clear lyrics that stick. The writing on this project outclasses most of the projects in its class.
There is a pretty obvious Highlife and R&B foundation to Chike’s sound, but on this project, he played around much of the spectrum of those two genres. On tracks like “Beautiful People” and “Faithful”, there are also a lot of violins blending a classical twist into the sound. “Roju” is another example – a highlife song complete with Igbo lyrics and guitar riffs. “Beautiful People” on the other hand is just pianos and vocals, which make for a great R&B song. But the creativity around the production is not the best thing about this album, it’s how well put together the sum of its parts are – vocals, instruments and everything in between.
This is an often underrated element of Nigerian albums. A recent example that comes to mind is Davido’s “A Good Time” album, which was all over the place as far as the arrangement of songs on the project. In contrast, Fireboy DML’s LTG and now, Chike’s Boo of the Booless are perfectly arranged and the songs flow into each other coherently along the themes explored on the project. That’s the sweet spot. The album is also just 14 songs long, coming to a total listening time of 46 minutes which doesn’t make it exhausting to listen to (Davido’s album has 19 tracks and lasts over an hour).
For your money’s worth, this is a solid project. It ticks all the boxes for what a great r&b album should be: the album is relatable, the lyrics are on point, the features (M.I, Ric Hassani and Zoro) fit perfectly into the songs they are on, the production is solid and it offers an overall well-rounded experience. Just like Fireboy DML’s LTG is the best afro-pop album of at least the last three years, Chike’s Boo of the Booless is the best r&b since Simi’s “Omo Charlie Champagne,” hands down.
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