The lady who will probably never live down those pesky Tiwa Savage comparisons joins her (mostly male) colleagues aboard the end of year album release date surge. Having established herself as a significant part of the pop scene for at least two years now, the debut album Seyi or Shay arrives on the heels of a record deal with the UK’s Island records and a fantastic lead single Right now burning up the charts and airwaves.
In a world with justice, Seyi or Shay should put to rest all those comparisons as Shay suggests through a lengthy 18 tracks (most good) that the boys are her real competition.
Having been around the Nigerian scene for too long, Ms Shay has a fine idea of what works around here and so she divvy ups her material into stuff that would work here and sounds that could play well internationally. The result is a mixed bag, yes but this approach works more often than it doesn’t.
On the local side, Shay’s regular pal, Del B is the chief culprit behind the beat. Previously released Jangilova is a guilty pleasure, pretty harmless fluff while Killing me softly (with Timaya) is as empty as anything you will hear from today’s misguided artistes and their producers. Timaya of course, squanders more goodwill saying exactly everything he has said in twenty songs past. Which adds up to not much.
Shay boards the Afrobeat train on Loud, perhaps just to prove that she can and drags Femi Kuti who unimpressively phones in a saxophone contribution. Beyond serving as Shay’s pre-invite to next year’s Felabration, it is unclear why this track exists.
Bearing the brunt of salvaging the local flavour is the Pheelz produced Pack and go. Well not exactly, as the trippy beat and mid-tempo tune could be suited for Rihanna, the pop star whom Shay repeatedly namechecks on the chorus. Preaching against domestic violence, Shay references back to the infamous moment of over four years ago when the Chris Brown-Rihanna relationship collapsed in full public glare. Shay sings, Do I look like Rihanna/ I get beats by Dre I no want beats by Chris/I go see you later. It guarantees repeated spins and is likely to get stuck in your heads long after the album is forgotten.
But Seyi Shay has bigger aspirations and it is on the single Right now that everything comes together for herperfectly. Sweet but without retaining the bitter aftertaste of saccharine, the light reggae tune has Shay hitting some fine vocal runs. She also gives a splendid account of her vocal range on Higher, a sexy standout that cannot quite decide if it is baby making music or soul stirring worship song.
No shrinking violet, the naughty side to Ms Shay comes out big time on the voyeur’s delight, In public, a bump and grind advertisement of public make out sessions. Cynthia Morgan joins in for the ride and both ladies are uninhibited with risqué lines such as, I’m going bananas I wanna lick your Rihanna. The bad behaviour continues on Mary, a metaphor for the pleasures of inhaling controlled substances, complete with sounds of suggestive deep inhalation.
Seyi Shay does some of her best work when she has company. She is reunited with her mentor Sound Sultan for the reggae fantasia, Higher and blends in neatly with BOJ’s new school edge on Church. However she cedes the spotlight to D’banj on the weirdly interesting Tina, a throwback to D’banj’s harmonica playing, golden days as the country’s prime entertainer. It is a pleasure to see D’banj recapture some lost glory even if he does this at Shay’s expense.
Seyi or Shay would have benefitted from better A&R, an observation that should have been noticed by Shay’s new label bosses. All of the singles promoted before Right now (Crazy, Killing me softly, Murder) should have been dropped out altogether and the surviving material sewn up to a tight 12 to 14 tracks. The result would have been a sexy, sweltering dose of red heat, served up by the woman who is not just uninterested in taking Ms Savage’s crown but also concerned with more interesting preoccupations.
- Wilfred Okiche (@DrWill20)