It’s hard to make good albums in Nigeria. Despite the re-emergence of the album as an artistic metric in music, it is still largely a singles market. The result is that listeners don’t visit an album for the experience— they simply scour it for bops. “Leave the artistry to the alternative acts. You are an artiste, how many hits do you have ?”
Mainstream acts and labels know this, and so they act and adjust accordingly. Why go through the “stress” of creating an album, when you can simply curate a playlist? You have to admit that the formula is ridiculously simple; create an “album” with as many “singles” as possible, and you’ll have a modern masterpiece. If proof is needed, look no further, just ask Damini.
That’s the special thing about Boy Alone; Omah Lay is a hit maker, no doubt, and so the album is filled with bops, but these are bops with depth, feeling and a great deal of introspection. One song bleeds into another in a perfect sequence.
Tracks like “Never Forget,” “Understand,” and “Soso” feature stellar production, but it is Omah Lay’s lyricism that shines brightest here. On “Boy Alone”, there is a clear thread of heartbreak, depression, and escapism from those feelings. Omah Lay’s lyrics help to communicate those feelings clearly and effectively.
Track 5 ” I’m a mess” is the album’s centerpiece. Speaking of his depression and his need to escape, he sings, ” Cause I am fucked up totally/ So I’ve been drinking Cognac… Too many shots of cognac”
On Temptation, he sings, “My Rizzler, when I dey down, I roll one,” and on Safe Haven, he sings, “Room 404, my room number/Come give me head for the pillow” both of which use sex to escape his problems.
Omah Lay is at his most raunchy and descriptive on songs like “Bend You” and “Tell Everybody,” so sex is a particularly potent topic on the album.
He ends the album with the affecting ” Purple Song,” highlighting valid grounds for separation while hoping for a stronger union in spite of them. It is a stunning truth to uncover about relationships, platonic or romantic—things will happen. There will be issues, but you must hold each other tight. You cannot let go.
The album is not without its flaws, however, chief of them being Omah Lay’s delivery. While his style of phrasing and mumbling may be unique to him, it is no less annoying. A dreamy and trance inducing mix is tricky enough, but pair that with mumbled sentences, and the words and sentiments are lost sometimes. It is a problem that fades away with repeated listening, but is no doubt present.
Nonetheless, “Boy Alone” is a stunning achievement. Sonic cohesion often bleeds into monotony, but Omah Lay’s thematic commitment to his aesthetic and story keeps things afloat. While most Afrobeat records crash with faulty sonics, there is a clear lyrical lifeline with “Boy Alone”.
From Bops like “Understand” and “Bend You” to Ballads like ” Temptation” and “Safe Haven”, the writing is stellar. Whatever the reactions might be in the interim, one thing is clear — On “Boy Alone”, Omah Lay establishes himself as one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. Artistes and audiences will look back on it for guidance in lyricism, cohesion, and honest masculine vulnerability.