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TIWA SAVAGE, QUEEN OF AFROBEATS SEEKS A WORLD WIDE AUDIENCE WITH NEW ALBUM ‘CELIA’

Ikedi Mekz joins CNN and NYT to critique the Tiwa/Vanessa production

To Motolani Ake, a journalist and well-informed music critic with Pulse.ng, Tiwa Savage’s latest album, “Celia”, “It’s worse when the album she released doesn’t passionately and significantly reflect the political branding around its roll-out. Despite the political leanings of Celia, it’s still heavily driven by thematic millennial tendencies of love, sex and enjoyment. It’s one of the reasons why the political branding of Tiwa Savage through her roll-out was baffling.” The 13-track album released August 28 follows the release of three singles; ‘Dangerous Love’, ‘Koroba’ and ‘Temptation’.


The critic had written in his review of the album shortly after release that “The Tiwa Savage ‘rebrand’ does seem manufactured, inorganic, convenient and sudden. Even worse, the socio-political branding for Celia is slightly nonsensical.” The review notes that with news of the album, which was made over three songwriting camps in Lagos, London and Los Angeles, came a ‘conscious branding’ that positioned Tiwa Savage as an activist and socio-political commentator.


“This branding began with her highly promoted single, ‘49-99’ which tried to discuss the Nigerian struggles via the Fela-inspired rhetoric, “49 sitting, 99 standing…” in reference to the euphoric and tiring rush of Lagos and extinct molue buses. On Celia, songs like ‘Ole’ featuring Naira Marley, ‘Koroba,’ and ‘Celia’s Song’ were created with strong socio-political branding. The branding is a subterfuge and a ploy to give Tiwa Savage some identity before an international [western] audience who sees Fela as the standard for the African artist.


“To that audience, you have to stand for more than just the music. In response, Tiwa Savage is getting a forced identity that has no roots or basis. Like clockwork, she then referenced and called herself an “offspring” of Fela Kuti on Hot 97, New York. Ermmm… Oops. This is a woman who went on Nigerian radio and openly proclaimed that she doesn’t identify as a feminist. More importantly, it might work in the context of lies that the foreign audience might love, but it is not sustainable.


“You can’t proclaim you are something without having a track record. As Peruzzi sang on that song, “Show working for me…” More importantly, making a woman whose brand is built on sexuality to suddenly start talking about politics will inevitably backfire. It will create a conflict for her primary audience and alienate them. As impressive as it is to see Tiwa Savage discuss some of these issues, you have to also spot the ‘convenience’ of the narrative as well as how strategic it all seems.” In the final thoughts, therefore, the review admits that “Celia isn’t a poor album, but it’s not exceptional. While it has some really good songs, the album is mostly filled with lukewarm to good songs.”


That is one opinion in a clear-cut swoop. A lot of Nigerian music observers who having listened to the songs in the Celia album may not disagree with the critic. For one, this writer shares similar view on the new image leaning of the Number 1 African Bahd Girl, Tiwa Savage. The Nigerian singer, in a feature by the New York Times, among other things, spoke about her journey in the music industry, “Celia” and using her platform to encourage young African girls. At what point did she start using her platform to encourage young African girls? Tiwa please respond.


Aside the branding effort, let’s look at the contents of the album. The “Celia” project, which she titled in tribute to her mother, features border-crossing collaborations including the likes of British Sam Smith, Stefflon Don, Davido, Naira Marley, Hamzaa, and more—pointing towards the effort of artists coming out of the African continent to have global appeal. On the strength of the lyrical prowess, quite a few of the songs have stuck. With the repeat value from airplays, streaming and downloads, in the days to come the songs would further gain reception. So, give it to tracks like Koroba, Park Well (ft. Davido), Attention (ft. Sam Smith).


And to add, the groovy track Bombay (ft. Stefflon Don & Dice Ailes) and Ole (ft. Naira Marly), are party-club bangers. With songs like Glory, Pakalamisi, FWMM, Save My Life, it would be safe to say the “Queen of Afrobeats,” is on the edge of courting an audience worldwide with her latest album, her first body of work to come out on Motown Records. As a trailblazer and one of the few women in the afrobeats scene to stay the course and make a musical impact, Savage declares that she’s here to stay with this album, executively produced by Tiwa Savage & Vannessa Amadi-Ogbonna.


In all sincerity, all the songs are passable in the lyrics and the beats, after what’s pop music without its lyrical pleasure and tune. In Tiwa Savage’s style, the lyrics switch between English and Yoruba as Savage glides through her melodies, rarely raising her airy, unflappable voice. Her fourth studio album “Celia” is an album of sleekly insinuating Afrobeats grooves that carry love songs and understated, like Parelese rightly noted in his New York Times feature. But in the true sense of it, it is without true purposeful messages of empowerment

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