J Martins’ Fourth Studio Album – Authentic, Struggles to Stand Out
Long before Yemi Alade thought to embrace all of Africa to her bosom, J Martins has been silently doing the work of breaking into the entire continent, one country at a time. A producer who hit it big with massive singles that granted him legitimacy to pursue a career as a solo artiste, J Martins has managed to sustain his brand on the right side of relevance, even while struggling of late to resonate with an ever fickle audience.
His latest record, Authentic, is tagged as being made in Africa and in trying to live up to this billing, J Martins ventures further and further outside the comfort zones of his Afropop/highlife mash ups to import sounds from other climes. He does this by collaborating with big names from these countries. When J Martins succeeds, he gets Kofi Olomide (Dance for me remix), Uganda’s Ferre Gola (Ekelebe) and Congolese Jose Chameleon (Feeling you). When he is stuck, he makes another song and throws pal DJ Arafat into the mix, hoping the Ivory Coast singer will hold our attention. Sometimes he does, other times he doesn’t. Still the hustle continues. We understand it. Doesn’t mean we have to embrace it.
Still, you cannot fault a guy for trying. The bulk of Authentic is in keeping with J Martins’ highlife origins. Up tempo sounds and cheesy, at times incoherent lyrics mix with passable production bonafides to make for a disc that is only occasionally exciting and tries not to overstay its welcome.
J Martins sings primarily in Igbo and even though he served as the precursor to acts like Phyno and Humblesmith, hitting mainstream waters first, he is likely to be received today as a relic from an earlier period. Thus is the nature of pop music.
J Martins tries to update his sound with guest appearances from today’s fat cats. Phyno and YCee show up for the undistinguished Ten Ten and Vector and new comer, Zoro do delightful battle on the crossover hopeful Stupid. Martins’ friendship with Waje continues to attract her to sub-par material as they try to recreate the formula of Ereke from his last album on Feeling you.
Things brighten up considerably with his remake of Bright Chimezie’s 80’s classic, African style. Titled this time as Ala bekee, it is easy for Bright Chimezie to upstage J Martins. Frankly, they are not in the same class, either as singers or performers Mr Chimezie briefly brings the disc to a peak with his Zigma style. The mixing is commendable though. So is the credible effort put in for the dance ready Obioma.
J Martins is unable to sustain this high gifted him by Mr Chimezie and his record comes tumbling down from here with duds like Kwaroro. Even the lead single Ikwusigo while not bad as a stand alone effort cannot lift the disc up from the second half slump.
When out of ideas, retreat to DJ Arafat seems to be J Martin’s modus operandi and it works until it doesn’t. Arafat brings his high energy wailings to the otherwise forgettable Sarafina. but the song itself isn’t anything you haven’t already heard on a Flavour record. Faro Faro fares slightly better but won’t stick long enough to make a difference and the previously released Touching body, placed here as a bonus cut is past its sell by date.
Still J Martins is sure to find some measure of success with Authentic in the eastern part of the country where this kind of stuff is prevalent and is likely to find an audience.
Everyone else already moved on.
– Wilfred Okiche (@DrWill20)