The Kiss Daniel debut album has been a long time coming. The (not so) young star who isn’t quite sure of his age has enjoyed a stellar run in the mainstream that commenced with breakout single Woju and was assisted by a major push from his neophyte label/management G-Worldwide. As the premiere artiste from the label, Daniel made a major case for G-Worldwide’s relevancy with back to back hit singles in the form of the copy cattish but relentless Laye, the excellent Good Time and the crowd pleasing Mama. He may have lost his Headies crown to Reekado Banks but his status as superstar hit maker has been all but assured for some time now.
It takes a level of confidence to start your debut album with brazen claims of royalty but Mr Daniel is no idle jester, neither is he an empty barrel itching to make the loudest noise. New Kings ushers in the Kiss Daniel era competently as he rides a mid-tempo beat comfortably, declaring that his music will still be around long after he is dead and gone. Daniel also makes a case for things to come by hinting that his record is still major even without the familiar presence of big name guest stars. This is followed sharply by Another Day, an additional sound-of-things-to-come kind of song. Both songs play like introductions to the Kiss Daniel experience and in many ways they both are.
The essence of the record begins to set in on the third track, Jombo, a confident and joyous piece that showcases both Daniel’s above average song writing skills and producer MasterKraft’s knack for crafting earworms. Jombo’s intentions are simple; Daniel wants to explain his reasons for taking the cowardly route after putting his lady friend in the family way. ‘’Your mother is black belt/she sabi Karate,’’ he wails, naively expecting his lover to actually see reasons with him.
Kiss Daniel may deviate from the normative on Jombo, but his entire career has been carefully balanced on a boy next door appeal. Most of the songs on New Era are musings on the young Nigerian male experience; of a fellow willing to do the right thing notwithstanding the challenges life constantly throws up. He is sensible enough to know when a relationship will bring him ruin and promptly kisses off the materialistic partner on Are you alright? On Gobe, he dishes words of wisdom, Money makes you attractive brother but e no go buy you peace.
The problems of the recently wealthy are his to deal with on the bouncy, retro-fitted Kudi, as he tackles a former lover who wants to connect now that his life has changed for the better. Daniel comes to the conclusion that life is fickle on the stunner Alone and warns that in the end, it is everyman for himself.
These heavy themes are presented with a lightness of touch that make the songs go down easy. A line here, a phrase there, no one beats you over the head with their message of forced redemption via repetitive hooks, overwhelming beats or forceful phrasing.
Daniel may have his home training intact, but he still knows how to have fun. A good percentage of the material on New Era is made up of love songs. Mama takes a while to grow on you but producer Young John is in his routine irresistible form. Daniel wants his lover to cooperate on the aptly titled Give into, a leisurely aural roll in the sack. And Kiss me worms its way into your good books thanks to Daniel’s submissive and smoky delivery.
Sin City is an all too brief album highlight that has Daniel trying for a sexy, poetic edge. On the Masterkraft produced jam, Daniel tries maintains his clean cut bonafides (They can’t believe that I smoke no Kush/that I’m the one them choose) but insists on not being a push over (You push me and I push too).
New Era is not without its flaws though. Daniel proves he can carry a disc by himself without assistance but helping out a label mate becomes his Achilles hill. Newbie Sugarboy has his delights but the record could have done without his dancehall contributions. Of the three entries, only Napo is a genuine fit for the record. Ghetto Boys is an attempt at a label anthem that doesn’t quite fly while Upon me is basic filler fare. They aren’t bad but not quite up to the record’s high standards. Ditto the thanksgiving number, All Good. Some judicious cutting and sniping and New Era could have been a perfect debut.
Kiss Daniel proves himself a chip off the old block, but one with a style and essence that is all his. New Era is a delightful mix of breezy pop tunes crafted to fly by effortlessly. Hints of old masters (2face, 9ice) are present but Daniel still manages to come across as a refreshing change in a climate coloured by bland homogeneity.
–– Wilfred Okiche (@DrWill20)