Iyanya Mbuk’s third studio album, Applaudise arrives with the kind of sleek packaging and promotion reserved for superstars of his status. With its attractive, straight to business cover art and impressive guest star list trailing a couple of hit singles and music videos, the album seemed primed to slake the collective thirst of an industry lacking in quality work. Never mind that his previous efforts, 2013’s Iyanya vs Desire and even last year’s Made Men Group collaboration record, Evolution didn’t hold up to any critical scrutiny,
Applaudise opens promisingly with Wambi, a sexy shot of pure R&B that goes down easy. Iyanya hasn’t sounded better in recent times as he puts on his default mode since the smash success of his Kukere anthem; the come hither predator searching for prey to devour. It is a routine that has kept him on the A-list these past few years and there is no reason to depart from a winning formula. There isn’t much in terms of writing proficiency. There is a girl, she may or may not be fronting. There is a guy, a horny one. He wants to keep the fire burning, whatever that is. Will they collide or won’t they? In the midst of the heat, Iyanya turns in some decent vocal runs but the shoddy mixing and mastering, a problem that sustains the entire album begins to rear its ugly head to dilute the sweet punch.
Up next is his ode to baby daddies. He enlists the normally clean cut Banky W and attempts to sully him up a bit. Banky W, as is the case most of the time, comes fully loaded. Not that you need to come fully armed to outpace Mr Mbuk on a recording. Sadly, he has become that kind of artiste. Banky W sings then raps. The song isn’t bad. It is catchy, melodies are pleasurable. Definitely another winner.
Mama combines traditional throbbing drums with today’s slick pop finish. It is the mommy appreciation song and will definitely find an audience come rain or shine. To force the song further down the commercial route, Iyanya begins to name drop shamelessly. Joseph Yobo, Igho Sanomi, Don Jazzy and their mothers all receive shout outs. It is all very calculated to amass as many audiences as possible.
There is some hint of the mysterious on Macoma, the DJ Coublon produced intoxicating blend that benefits from fine input from Sarkodie and Efya.
The record peaks here. Four songs and barely only 10 minutes in.
It certainly isn’t for lack of trying. Or maybe it is. Iyanya invites as many of his friends from the contemporary pop spectrum as his status can command (Seyi Shay, Patoranking, Tekno, Harrysong, Lil Kesh) but all of them put together cannot save a record so directionless and lacking in sense of purpose. The guests are all tepid, except for an energetic Olamide cameo on Turn it up. Everyone phones it in. Who can blame them? Iyanya practically phones the whole record in himself.
The overriding theme is to make a dance record, one that the clubs and party scene can respond to with open arms. But apart from the danceable beats, Applaudise fails to elicit even warm up cheers.
It is always disheartening to see a talented person downplaying their gifts in order to reach as wide an audience as possible and this has been Iyanya’s case since Kukere became both his gift and his curse. The success of his pop dilution is quite glaring so only unreasonable folks would advise him to abandon a recipe that has provided him with bountiful results.
But pop music does not have to be synonymous with brain dead drivel and this is the major grouse with Iyanya. He has gotten lazy and overly reliant on the hit single formula, the need to make people dance at the expense of common sense. Would that the record was packed with hits.
Some of the songs that made the final cut are unforgivable even from debut artistes lacking in career direction. For an artiste of his stature and resources, it just points to a certain disregard for his audience.
For this record, Mr Mbuk gets no applause.
– Wilfred Okiche (@DrWill20)