After bubbling under for a couple of years, Niniola finally broke through the clutter in 2017 with Maradona, the sexy dance anthem that houses in two ever so brief verses, many a woman’s complaints about a cheating boyfriend. Think Yemi Alade’s Johnny but with less fat, more muscle, more wit and loads of flexibility. Its acceptance was really no surprise.
Most people who know Niniola, prior to Maradona, do so on account of the popularity of Ibadi, her 2014 hit about the glories of a well-endowed behind. On that one song, Niniola laid out what was to be the template that would make her a star. Relatable lyrics laced with plenty of sexual innuendo, delivered in both English and her native Yoruba, set to exotic sounding, addictive beats. Add lots of images of rump shaking and the package was hard to resist.
Fans who have had the privilege of seeing her live know what to expect.
But instead of charging straight to the point on This is Me, her debut album, Niniola does a bit of an about turn on Moyo, the Johnny Drille produced opening song. She surprises as she launches into a soft gospel number that is pleasant in its safety. Thematically, Moyo doesn’t quite fit in with the curated sounds of This is Me, neither does it jive with Niniola’s brand of controlled sexiness. But she is Nigerian after all and what kind of person would she be if she didn’t pay homage to a higher being?
Niniola has tried slow burning pop/R&B songs like Akara Oyibo in the past so the inclusion of the slick R&B number, Oyin comes as no surprise. She can bring adults to their knees on the dance floor but she can also lift her vocals to compete with the best of them, as she proves here with an impressive falsetto riff.
The core of This is Me begins on the third track, Bale with fast rising street favorite Terry Apala. Bale is set to a danceable pop beat that flirts with Fuji. It is a brief but welcome experiment that Niniola and her team of superstar producers improve upon significantly on unforced standouts like Dola and Gbohun. Featuring impressive work from the likes of Sarz, Ooh and Legendury Beatz, This is Me works best on songs like these. Flirtatious, confident vocals, accompanied by commanding, almost infectious beats that place her work squarely in a subgenre almost entirely of her own creation. She may not have created afrohouse, but she certainly owns it now.
The central idea of This is Me is Niniola gifting her audience with breathless, feel good music and she certainly knocks it out of the park with every single track that she pulls out of her bag of goodies. Her songwriting could do with some uplifting and she frequently hides under the cover of Yoruba to cover up some of this weaknesses but with melodies as sweet as what she is selling, it is no wonder a lot of people are buying.
This is Me is not only home to Maradona and Sicker, two of the biggest afro-house anthems of the past year, a lot more goodies are embedded within. Jam-packed such as it is with slick, sexy, power dance tunes delivered with relish, in both English and Yoruba.
First albums aren’t usually this confident, but This Is Me is Niniola burrowing in, carving her own niche, and then bursting out the gate, confident in her abilities.