Adekunle Gold – Gold album review: The Adekunle Gold grass-to-grace story is what passes for the Nigerian Dream these days. Instead of expecting a direct reward for hardwork, dedication or perseverance that may never materialize, the average Nigerian does his hustling bit to make ends meet, then surrenders the rest to the hands of the almighty. If God says yes, the Holy Books teach, who dares say no?
Adekunle Gold received that ‘’divine’’ push when he recorded a mix of British boy band One Direction’s Story of My Life and rejigged it as a trado-pop love letter to a lady named Sade. The song found a wider audience than Mr Gold could ever have imagined and soon, rapper/music executive Olamide came knocking. Mr Gold became the latest addition to Olamide’sYBNL. A couple of singles,-Orente, Pick Up, Ready,- followed, each one buzzier than the last. The demand for a full body of work was genuine, hence the seeds for Gold, the album were sown.
Through fame, success and superstardom, Adekunle Gold retained his initial accidental fame-found-me-I-didn’t-go-looking-for-it appeal. Like Taylor Swift before him, his big moment at a major awards show was crashed rudely by another egomaniac with a shortage of manners, but unlike Ms Swift, Gold’s boy-next-door act hasn’t started to appear rehearsed. Yet.
The Gold album is a breezy, fun, competent showcase of Adekunle Gold’s influences and interests. He obviously believes in the Nigerian Dream (How could he not? It happened for him) and so a good portion of the material is an acknowledgement of his good fortune, plus a service of songs to the Almighty for putting it all together for him.
Maybe Adekunle Gold genuinely believes what he is selling, maybe he is just cashing in on his audience’s need to tap into a higher power, or maybe it is a bit of both. Whatever the case, Gold,- both the singer and the album,- pushes this narrative aggressively.
His greatest hit yet, Pick Up is the biggest culprit here. It is really no wonder the song emerged as big as it was. Mr Gold leaves every mundane need in his life into the hands of Oluwa. From scoring a boo, to acquiring that dream Range Rover, he expects everything to be settled immediately God comes around to picking up his call. Other variants of this theme can be seen on the album’s intro (God chose his name by speaking directly to him,) the biographical My Life (prayer solves everything) and Ariwo Ko (success happens in turns.)
Adekunle Gold upends this logic and comes down to earth briefly on Work, one of the few genuinely adventurous songs on the record. Don’t be put off by the title, Rihanna’s annoying earworm has nothing on this one here. Riding a trippy, dance hall-lite beat provided by B. Banks, Mr Gold is at his most sensible when he admonishes, Anything wey you want oh/ you go get am if you work.
Half the record consists of (not so) silly love songs, Beautiful Night has a warm, island feel that hints of lazy holidays and sips of intoxicating liquor. Paradise is a R&B scorcher that boasts some fine songwriting and a composed if subdued delivery. Mr Gold’s slight storytelling muscles are flexed on the dreamy ballad, Nurse Alabere as well as on the torch duet Don’t Forget with Simi. He would be a better songwriter if only he would just apply himself to the hard work involved and stay away from overdone tropes verging on cliché.
Because Gold is ultimately a YBNL project, there is a throbbing need to remain current and up to date as far as trends are concerned. While servicing this need may come in useful in terms of minting catchy, relatable hooks that will ensure virality, it encroaches on Mr Gold’s songwriting, which is not exactly polished in the first place. Thus some of these attempts at humour feel forced and fall flat in places where simple wit would have served the purpose effectively.
Gold is a safe pop album; sleekly packaged and shrewdly designed to appeal to as many people as possible, from the North to the South. There is little of Adekunle Gold in it, but plenty of inspiration, influences and trends.
At times he favours the Juju and highlife of Sir Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade, other times he tries for Shina Peters’ brand of AfroJuju with a side of Fuji. The resultant sound is sugary sweet, always pleasing to the ears but hardly approaches game changing material. There is still a vacuum as to who exactly Adekunle Gold is as an artiste and what exactly he stands for, if any.
Packaging and hype work wonders but they cannot turn a product so defective into the real deal. Mr Gold has just been tested and he isn’t the real deal. Not yet at least.