The greatest career trick Adekunle Gold has pulled off isn’t the quality of his music. It lies in how he’s managed to convince even those who should know better that he is an alternative act. Different from the normal. On the scale of obscure to mainstream, Adekunle Gold with his mild manners, plaintive whining and stories of pitiful underperformance, is as cookie cutter as pop music can be. Which is to say that he is very popular.
His debut album, Gold, houses fifteen tracks that sit squarely in the conventional corner of the room and he is as recognizable nationwide as the Wizkids and Davidos, thanks to a steady stream of Top 10 singles as well as his early career alliance with Olamide and his YBNL records.
But because the bar in contemporary pop music is lower than the average, Adekunle Gold has managed to parlay his career making rejig of One Direction’s Story of my Life into a form of lovable outsider status. This has of course been aided by a knack for stellar live performances, complete with full complement of the 79th Element, his very own live band. Gold’s deception is so potent, even the Headies nominates him in the alternative category. Never mind that his entire oeuvre screams quite the opposite.
Thanks to an effective publicity campaign that dates back to last year at the least, and the usefulness of a larger than life lead single, Ire, About 30, the second album by Adekunle Gold is definitely one of the year’s hottest musical tickets. Mr Gold shows some musical progression and willingness to take more risks than he did on his debut but if these efforts go by almost unnoticed, it is because Mr Gold by nature, is his own rate limiting step.
Saddled with a vocal personality as nondescript as cold tea, Mr Gold has been lifted at various times by the blunt force of YBNL and the sweetness of his reported romance with singer songwriter Simi. Left to his own devices, he is incapable of drawing attention to himself solely with his voice, pleasant as it sounds. On About 30, he relies on Seun Kuti, Flavour and the smoky voiced newcomer Dyo to supply the record with the edge that his blandness cannot quite manage on his own.
These guests make all the difference.
Following the enveloping but sterile familiarity of Ire, Dyo easily asserts herself as the center of gravity of the bouncy highlight, Down. Adekunle Gold then takes a potentially gritty track like Mr Follow and layers his syrupy voice to nullify the danger of Seun Kuti.
After catching his breath for a minute, Gold reverts to already done territory by recycling himself severally. Surrender is mostly an update of Friend Zone from Gold. It is hard to miss the influence of Sade on the harmony heavy Damn Delilah and the cautionary Pablo Alakori stars off like the jumpy Work, also from Gold.
All of this lifting and recycling makes About 30 come off as less than the sum of its parts. The instrumentation is groovy and production is decent enough. Problem is Adekunle Gold really wants to be taken seriously when he isn’t quite the pro, still incapable of bluffing his way through weak songwriting and a casual lack of soul. He shows some strain of ambition though and seems like a fellow who is willing to try out new avenues creatively.
On Fame, one of the album’s brighter spots, Mr Gold tries for introspection and succeeds for a change. Caught in a funk, Gold appraises the ways he has been left both changed and unchanged by superstardom. Some days I want to run away I no go lie oh!, he cries out, hinting at the insufficiencies of even the most desired accomplishments.
About 30 does not lack from melody and will appeal to his considerable fan base, but it is just as fluffy and gimmicky as his debut. The best thing to be said about the record is that the songs are easily adaptable for live performances. Which is where Mr Gold is at his strongest anyway.
Still wondering what all the hype is about? To get a more convincing view of Adekunle Gold and the goodness he is capable of, skip the albums and grab a front row seat at his next live concert.
You are welcome.