One of this country’s favorite discussions has been on the subject of the quality of songwriting or lack of it, in Wizkid’s songs.
After the release of his sophomore album, “Ayo (Joy)” Nigerians were quick to point out that his songwriting is of substandard quality. He had to change, they said. He needed to switch the lyrics of his song, they said. The IQ of what he offers is crass and needs revamping, they said.
That album, has not left the iTunes charts for bestselling African projects since its release, raking in, by our estimate, almost N100 million. The album is winning, Wizkid is winning, using his lack of songwriting to break barriers and become the only African pop star to hit the number 1 spot for weeks on end, on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.
Suagrboy, DJ Shabsy and Kiss Daniel.
Why change a winning formula? Why switch a great creative pattern for something this is uncertain? Why fix a thing that is not broken?
It’s the same for everyone else. You come into the industry, work your ass off to infuse top-shelf artistry into your craft. Your songs fail to impress. People move on, the general populace ignore your ways. Finally, you get the attention with a good song, but it fails to spark an increase in your earnings. Everyone points in your direction and says ‘you are a great singer’. On twitter, and websites, you make multiple lists. But the money does not match the hype. When it comes, it’s in trickles.
Finally, you test the waters, dumb down the music, and water down your artistry to the rhythm of a beat. That song blows, you make insane money, and become comfortable. Would you switch that formula that brought in the dough? No! You embrace it, love it, kiss it, own it, and grow as a pop artiste. To hell with recognition, the money is relevant.
That’s why the music is what it is. Good music is not appreciated and supported with money. Hype stays hype, and your growth is stifled. People try to make you stay on your course, and provide rare examples of other artistes who have exhausted the industry quota for good music. They call Asa and Timi Dakolo as examples of what you can become. What they fail to tell you is that Asa isn’t Nigerian. She simply utilizes Nigerian content to play in the Parisian hub of sounds, and Europe. Timi Dakolo is probably the only true success story. But when the bigger picture is examined and analysed his success is negligible, and if he is taken out of the picture, the average success rate for ‘good’ music crashes precipitously. How about Adekunle Gold? He is recycling Highlife for the mainstream market.
But look the way of the pop stars, and you see the rulers of the scene. People who command the shows, and have a greater chance of breaking through. In 2014 alone, we got Yemi Alade, Sean Tizzle, Skales and Patoranking. 2015 gave us Kiss Daniel and Tekno.
Photos from Patoranking’s “GOE” album press conference
Then there’s the issue of the fans. An overwhelming majority of good music fans fail to put their pockets where their mouth is. Artistes are left to glow and wallow in their shallow recognition. But they won’t commit to buying albums, streaming the songs, and paying premium for content.
The good music artiste has no choice to go pop and get the money bags rolling. It’s a business after all, and the return on investment should be present for anything to make sense and stay sustainable.
There’s hardly any big bucks in Nigerian ‘good music’. Bad music has all the money, the numbers, the fans, the fame, and the success stories. Until that changes, it will become our reality.