Yemi Alade’s music career can be divided into pre and post Johnny.
While she struggled for attention in the pre-superstardom period leading up to her 2013 career defining chart topper, her output since then has been inconsistent, as she has attempted severally- and with mixed results- to recapture the creative heights. One moment she is trying for a Johnny copy, the next she is styling herself as a continental matriarch. She has recorded some success in the latter, seeking out new audiences in French and Swahili speaking parts of Africa and seems positioned to enjoy a viable career overseas.
Black Magic is a struggle album.
It is not quite clear who Ms Alade made this record for; her Francophone fans whom she courted so aggressively in 2016’s Mama Africa: Diary of an African Woman or the long-suffering home-based audience, resigned by now to her strange but sustained commitment to mediocre fare. There is a bit of something for everyone.
Lead single Knack Am follows in the tradition of what has worked before, on songs like Ferrari. A sweetened melody with plenty strings and a blend of exotic instruments. Follow up, Single & Searching with rapper, Falz has a lazy vibe that chugs along decently and the sultriness of the R&B highlight, Yaba Left, named after the street lingo for the federal psychiatric hospital in Lagos escapes Ms Alade’s intentions to ruin the experience with her now infamous songwriting.
Speaking of, the titles of some of the songs on Black Magic are a dead giveaway that Ms Alade has not given a thought to improve on her lyricism. Kpirim, Bum bum and Talku Talku are three such examples. They are in keeping with titles like Tumbum and Kom kom from Mama Africa and are clumped together ungracefully to appeal to the lowest common denominator, strictly to keep feet on the dancefloor. The way you take dey fire, you go less my tire/Oh! baby just dey fire, your baby na tear rubber, Alade sings on Kpirim.
Alade does some decent vocal work on Mr Stamina, as well as on the torchy Heart robber and then takes a sharp detour into trap territory with the Sess produced empowerment brag, Wonder Woman. It isn’t anything introspective, just basic feel good pseudo-feminist fluff.
While none of these songs so far are excellent, they at least have the good fortune of being easy listening and Alade doesn’t take herself seriously. How can she? She got Olamide in a room and the result is a clang of sounds titled Jantolo. It is as ungraceful as it sounds.
Ms Alade does not save the best for last.
The last four songs of Black Magic are mind numbing and will demand every strain of patience to see the record through. Lacking the experimentation and ambitious drive of Mama Africa, as well as the hit making pose of King of Queens, Black Magic easily emerges as the weakest record Yemi Alade has put out. There is a critical scarcity of ideas and while this isn’t surprising in itself- Ms Alade is hardly a thinking person’s pop star- and could be forgiven, the songs simply aren’t any fun. What is pop music when it isn’t fun? Sad, tragic stuff.