In an interesting turn of events, songwriting Maestra Omawumi shares a similar fate with New Zealand artist, Lorde. They both seem… Tired of it all.
For all intents and purposes, Omawumi is a legend in her own right. Arguably the biggest female in Nigerian music between 2009 — 2012, Omawumi ruled the airwaves with hit singles like “In The Music”, “Today Na Today”, “Bottom Belle” and “If You Ask Me”. Her debut album Wonder Woman was an impressive jump-off, and her sophomore, The Lasso Of Truth was a commercial success, cementing her place as one of the leading voices of that era.
Her art and brand have always been bolstered by; her titanic voice, playful use of Pidgin English, and the fusion of genres in her music. Notice the jazz and disco instrumentation on “If You Ask Me” and “In The Music”, respectively.
However, the fusion ended with her 2nd studio album, The Lasso Of Truth, as she switched to strictly live performances and released what is her Magnum Opus to date; her third studio album, Timeless.
Of course, with the switch, her commercial prospects waned, but Omawumi was more of an artist than ever before. She had taken control of her art and was making the best music she could while doing it. Her EP Without You was a beautiful collection of songs, detailing dynamics in adult relationships with a sprinkle of her usual social commentary.
This amazing history and career is what makes this new album somewhat befuddling and dare I say… Underwhelming.
It is undeniably clear that for LDHL, Omawumi sought to create a loose, celebratory high-life album. The ambition is all well and good, as it presents another sonic shift in her artistry, further highlighting her brand as a constantly evolving artist. But even with playful and celebratory albums like this, hard work is required along with careful attention to detail. LDHL comes off not as the highlife jam Omawumi intended it as, but more like a collection of freestlyes recorded while she had a good time in the studio. Her repeated exclamations of glee in the songs make us painfully aware of her enjoyment, but really evoke none of our own.
The album is an obvious celebration of “loving deep” as 7 of the 10 tracks on the album are about love. But this writer wishes she had provided a more varied perspective on the love theme. It is apparent that Omawumi was particular about the sound, “vibe”, and sonic cohesion of the album, and in that she succeeds with flying colors. Again, it is very obviously a “high life” as stated in the title. It just doesn’t sound like a very good one.
The collaborations also leave a lot to be desired. On “My Darling”, Africa’s premier vocalist, Waje is little more than a background vocalist on the song. Due to the highlife sound, we can understand why their vocal gymnastics would have been ill-suited but for the first collaboration between the two vocalists on an Omawumi album since “Same Guy” in 2009, it was underwhelming.
The same goes for the feature with Phyno. Their earlier collaboration “Chukwu Na Enye” was a celebratory gospel-pop record with a string hook from Omawumi and insightful verses from Phyno. This song, “My Life” simply pails in comparison.
There are the bones of a great album here, however. Lead single, “BullShit” is an interesting if vulgar take, on everything from governmental inefficiency to societal judgment. I would have preferred the “breast and nyash” lyric not to exist, but as Omawumi said… This is a “no judgment zone”. “Milk and Honey” is a beautiful highlife ballad that sees Brymo and Omawumi trade compliments of love and affection to each other. It is the best collaboration on this album. The best moment, however, on the album comes at the very end. “Mr Whiny” encapsulates everything this album could have been. Omawumi’s vocal delivery is stellar here. We hear her enjoy herself and groove to it as well! It tells of a deceptive man, “Mr Whiny”, and provides a bit of the fresh perspective and nuance of love this project has lacked. It has the playful ease that made us all fall in love with Omawumi to begin. Quite simply, it is the album that never came.
In all, Omawumi suffers the same fate as New Zealand artist, Lorde. With two groundbreaking albums, Lorde seems to buckle under the weight of her own genius with the release of her third, “Solar Power” and so does Omawumi. One of the pitfalls of having a great discography or career is the need to constantly outdo yourself, and here Omawumi falls below par. It is an interesting thing though. LDHL highlights a great career. Just not a great album.