By David Hundeyin
One of the biggest attributes of a good artiste is the ability to follow up a good debut album with an equally decent sophomore album. A great artiste might be able to create an equally good third album, while an exceptional artiste will be able to release four straight good albums. What then do you call an artiste whose 5th album is his best yet? A freak of nature maybe?
‘Naked’, the 5th studio album from R&B superstar Darey is what I can confidently refer to as a seminal piece of work – a collection of music that will become a benchmark and a reference point in the manner of Face2Face and Asa.
This album sees ‘Mr. Undareyted’ come into his own as a musical and cultural institution, striking the perfect balance between a constant, earthy African vibe and a string-driven Hip-hop, R&B and Soul sound. A lot of the credit for this must go to the producers who worked on the album including the excellent Oscar Heman-Ackah, Vtek and the ever-impressive Cobhams Asuquo.
Fusing genres as diverse as Afrobeat, Juju, R&B, Highlife, Jazz and Soul into one compelling body of music is an idea which more often than not tends to fall flat on its face. Not with this album. On this album, as indicated by the name, Darey shows us the true, unhidden musical quality he possesses, and every song has a story behind it. There is quite literally not a single ‘filler’ or poor song on this album.
Asiko Laiye – Produced by the amazingly consistent Vtek, the track is a smooth fusion of Afrobeat and uptempo R&B which acts as a fitting introduction to the sound experience the album promises.
Orekelewa – Continuing in the delightful tradition of musical fusion from different African cultures, the song is a feel-good love song delivered in Yoruba and pidgin over a mixture of traditional Yoruba drums and Ibibio string patterns.
You’re Beautiful – This hauntingly beautiful Juju/Afrobeat fusion number incorporates an ethnic Yoruba praise chant complete with talking drums and other Yoruba percussion instruments on a track extolling the beauty and virtue of African women.
Love You Die – On this mid-tempo R&B number, Dare returns to his core R&B sound over a bass synth-driven instrumental. If you liked “Not The Girl,” you are going to love this one.
Lie To You – An R&B ballad that sees Darey at his most elemental. His vocal range comes to the fore over the superb acoustic instrumental produced by none other than Cobhams Asuquo.
Pray For Me – Telling a powerful story of endeavour in the face of challenges, Darey explores his full vocal range on this one with the Soweto Gospel Choir providing a marvellous sonic backdrop to what was one of the best received singles of the year so far.
Aya Mi – On this track we again observe a awesome bit of cultural cross-pollination as Darey’s romantic lyrics are delivered in Yoruba and Igbo over an instrumental which has elements of Congolese Soukous and Ivoirian Coupé–Décalé fused together at the pace of a mid-tempo highlife track.
Asiko Laiye ft. Olamide – With the added va-va-voom and inimitable rascally humour of Olamide, this version of the track was released as a single.
Delilah (Taxi Driver) – This track is one of my favourites on Naked. Here we see Darey open up yet another aspect of his surprisingly multi-faceted musical personality with a humorous, light-hearted pop/highlife fusion ballad. Look out for the hilarious hook:
If you marry commissioner (I don’t care!)
If you marry a minister (I don’t care!)
If you marry lorry driver (I don’t care!)
If you marry taxi driver (I don’t care!)
Inside Of You – Darey. Asa. Both on the same track. I couldn’t possibly describe this one if I tried so I’ll leave you to listen to it yourself and come up with an adjective. This song will be huge.
Want You Back – On an album which crisscrosses genres effortlessly, this is perhaps the most musically rich and complex song, with the unmistakable vibe of a Yoruba ballad permeating this acoustic guitar-driven track over a Kikuyu ethnic string pattern, Ewe ethnic drums and an R&B delivery.
I Go Make Am – This inspirational number sees Darey speaking directly to us about never giving up and always following what we believe in. The vocally peerless African choir gives this track a whole new level of depth. This is another one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Champion – Taking off from where I Go Make Am leaves off, this track incorporates an uptempo R&B theme into the inspirational sound and message.
‘There’s a crown on my head o/
I’m a legend I’m a hero/
E no matter where I go, I’m a champion. Rise up (Rise up!).’
Anybody arguing? Certainly not me.
The vocals, the delivery, the production and the arrangement on Naked are nothing short of superb. The level of musical exploration and research that went into this album is simply phenomenal. On this evidence, we may have Nigeria’s biggest album of the year on our hands. In fact the only potential negative worth noting is that with the bar set this high, any subsequent album will have quite a job on its hands just to match Naked. With five studio albums under his belt already however, if anyone can manage it, it probably would be Darey Art-Alade…
This post first appeared on thenet.ng.