Life changed for Adedamola Adefolahan, popularly known as Fireboy DML, when he got his break on the song Jealous, off the 2018 YBNL Mafia Family album. It became an early fan favourite, even overshadowing the entire album, and introduced Fireboy as a curious, promising voice. He had the right arsenal to crack the mainstream music industry: (a) a boyish yet androgynous look, (b) an incredible penmanship that connects to Gen Zs who, unlike the older generation, are particularly more introspective and contemplative, (c) sublime vocals capable of pulling off both club bangers and heartbreak songs. In 2019, he was the hottest deal and arguably Olamide’s most promising signing yet. After the 2018 YBNL Mafia family album, Fireboy remained the only signed artiste at YBNL. A year after, after releasing hit singles “King” and “What if I Say”, he went on to release the epic Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps LP. The album was an instant classic. A well produced LP comparable even to the Legendary “Mushin to Mo-hits” by Wande Coal. The LP interrogated love as its overarching motif in a very relatable and sometimes, danceable manner. On a personal note, I remember listening to Need You on a road trip from Lagos to Oshogbo to visit my Shade. As the breeze filled my face through the lowered windscreen, I watched as the passing people, houses, trees, and shrubs close the distance between I and my lover with each fading silhouette. Each time Fireboy’s voice boomed through my headphones, singing: “Love me while you can, cause time no dey” It reassured me that I was doing the right thing. It also assured me that Afro-RnB was here to stay.
Apollo— Fireboy, the restless and ambitious god
At the beginning of the year 2020, Olamide announced YBNL’s collaboration with Empire, hinting that new projects from Olamide and Fireboy in 2020 were more or less a certainty in fulfillment of contractual requirements. As the pandemic halted promotional plans for his debut album, Fireboy had to record what would become Apollo few months after the release of his debut album.
For context, Apollo is a god in Greek mythology, and one of the twelve Olympians. He is the son of Zeus and Leto and the twin brother of Artemis. He is the god of healing, music, poetry and the sun. In the first miraculous myth of Apollo, it is said he transitioned from infant to man four days from his birth. In fact, seven days after his birth, he slew a dragon. Regarded as the most beautiful god, Apollo is often revered in Greek mythology because of his physical perfection and his music.
With Apollo, Fireboy seeks to live up to myth by attempting to reinvent Afrobeats on his own terms. The album offers a sonic palette that is diverse and yet cohesive. The sounds are unique and a curious departure from his debut album. Apollo finds Fireboy in more confident form, as he declares from the first track titled Champion: “I be King, I’m the best my generation has ever seen”. On Airplane Mode, he boasts: “I’m a god, I’m a stronger man, I’m a different breed, my kind no be normal one”. Also on Lifestyle he says “Make I yarn you I’m better than I’m most of them” This confidence is also expressed in the highly experimental nature of Apollo. By fusing pop, rnb, highlife, funk on an Afrobeat base, Fireboy attempts to create a sub-genre totally unique to himself, and subvert expectations of what a Fireboy track ought to sound like. The album leaves one in surprise. Whether this surprise is welcome or not is another thing altogether.
The core theme of the album remains love. But this time, Fireboy expresses himself with more sensual depth. On Tattoo he says: “let me beside you, or maybe inside you”. On Eli he tells a story of a girl who tries to tease him “Just like that, she dey my front, she don dey my back” .
What stands out on Apollo is Fireboy’s almost impeccable songwriting. One can say his songs are firstly perfect on paper, so much so that they will still sound good if it was merely read aloud. Dreamer is that one song anyone who has been left on read by a crush will infinitely relate with. God only Knows is a smooth ballad reminiscent of Bryan Adam’s classic of the same title. Coincidentally, both songs share a deep sense of longing, abandonment and an acknowledgement of the frailty of human nature in the face of divine omniscience in a way that pierces the heart. Another track worth mentioning is Afar. Fireboy recruits his Label Boss, Olamide, to shine light on how he intends to live out his new celebrity status, and Olamide doesn’t disappoint.
Pheelz, P.Prime, Type A, IamBeatz bring their A-game to the album. Pheelz and P.Prime are absolutely brilliant in their respective performances, and make up for Fireboy’s shortcomings. Their range accentuates Fireboy’s songwriting and provides the base that forms the eccentric yet ambient nature of the album.
Also Fireboy’s ease in his songwriting, though sometimes sentimental, is a breath of fresh air. His capacity to pour his everyday life through his commitment to songwriting makes the album mumble and jargon free, a rare feat in the noisy Afrobeats genre.
Wande Coal is widely revered, and often referred to as the progenitor of the new sound now popularised by Fireboy, Joeboy, Oxlade etc. Fireboy particularly has been likened to Wande Coal, so the news of a collaboration on the track “Spell” offered so much promise.While the track is a good track, it offers less than what is expected from a collaboration of such spectacular individual talents. Also, considering the proximity in the release dates of Fireboy’s albums, (LTG was released in December 2019, while Apollo was released in August 2020) the latter will always be assessed by the standard of the former, not necessarily by the album of any other artiste. Here, Fireboy is his own standard and the question that will remain on every fan’s lips is: was LTG was better?
On Apollo, Fireboy attempts to bare himself, in utmost loverboy surrender whilst borrowing a leaf from the mythical Greek god, Apollo, to explore loss, lust and love. Fireboy’s sophomore album may sound overarchingly sentimental, perhaps as a result of his overzealousness to his songwriting, but the listener is compensated with its honesty, and it’s easy listening feel. Apollo may not be LTG, but it is a spectacular sophomore album memorable for its confidence, its everydayness and smooth restlessness.