It’s not easy being queen, and it’s even harder in Tiwa’s kingdom. In the fraternity that is the Nigerian music scene, Tiwa has achieved near- impossible longevity by balancing controversy and likeability all at once. By emphasizing her sexuality in her videos and persona, she is able to provoke shock value without ever making a strong opinion or niche sentiment.
She therefore provokes in the most conventional way – her sexuality.
The men leer and the women aspire.
It’s a perfect storm.
With Celia however, Tiwa has opinions and she’s not afraid to share them. The album is quite simply about a woman’s perspective. It tours a feminine landscape of love, sexuality, pain, religion and politics. In a way, it is Tiwa’s defense. It is her turn in the witness box – her version of events. Here are thoughts on the tracks on the project.
Save My Life
Tiwa begins with a bang. There’s a way to love a queen, she knows it and her lover should too.
“Take your time. If you wan hold my body, better hold me right”
This song is an Afro-Pop gem. It’s easy on the ears and infuses the 80’s Chicago House music influences rather impressively. In her quest for an international audience, this declaration of intent makes a fine opener.
Temptation (Feat. Sam Smith)
This picks up where “Save My Life” left off. The Fireboy DML-penned number explores the temptation Tiwa hinted on earlier in full. It’s a slow groove, with a few horns thrown in to add some excitement.
There’s a sultry lyricism on this track that slowly edges you towards temptation. London, deserves immense credit for the production – especially for keeping the “heartbeat” rhythm going in the final 20 seconds.
Ole (Feat. Naira Marley)
Enter the politics. Using the core Afrobeats sound, Tiwa addresses corruption and theft by Nigerian politicians in the most Nigerian way possible – by asking them to “share the money”.
As Celia is dedicated to perspectives, for contrast, there’s Naira Marley’s verse where he admits that everyone is a thief and that we must get money by all means (surprising sentiment from him, lol). The skit at the end, from the infamous NDDC “Hourable Minister, off your mic” session is gold.
The opinions get stronger. Tiwa turns her attention to the Nigerian public. She addresses their hypocrisy toward “runs girls” and women who date wealthier men. She calls out society for shaming these women without ever shaming the men who steal and give it to them.
It is arguably one of the best singles released this year. The lyrics of the first verse are by far, the most jarring of any song this year. London’s production is top tier on this track.
Bombay (Feat. Stefflon Don & Dice Ailes)
Now, this is sexy. Tiwa praises her femininity and sexuality in her verse. A large part of it is also written in musical minors which we appreciate with gusto!
Stefflon Don flows so effortlessly from English to Yoruba and Pidgin. Dice Ailes gives the women a run for their money and throws in a Wizkid reference for good measure –
“Onion booty, but I won’t kè”.
“Bombay” is easily a jam and half. Totally deserves a video.
We’re back to the love story. Tiwa is very apprehensive of this new love. She describes it as “a dangerous love affair”. It’s the perfect case of a love that’s too good to be good for you.
The backing vocals are striking and heavily processed and so the lyrics are perfectly lucid. Cracker Mallo and Tiwa Savage created a wonderful song.
Park Well (Feat. Davido)
This song is one of the reasons you should let albums sit and marinate in them. On this song, Maestro, Peruzzi and Tiwa Savage combine to create true value within the context of the entire project.
Asides the songwriting, SperoacHBeatz’s production quality is a differential. The melody is beautiful and ages wonderfully with time. In all honesty, it is not the best song on the album but it connects Tiwa to her core fanbase. “Park Well” is a definite grower.
Tiwa Savage. Photo by Stephen Tayo
Honesty and soul is one element that most big album releases manage to leave out. It’s a pretty important thing to have but it’s not a very commercial element. On “Us” Tiwa brings IT!
Moelogo’s genius on this song is too evident. You can see it with the songwriting and background vocals. Tiwa has noted that this song is about the breakdown of her marriage. Despite the very real narrative of the song, it still fits perfectly to the album’s storyline.
However, we’re still unsure about why a track as defining as “Us” has “interlude” affixed on it.
FWMM (Fuck With My Mind)
Easily the most fun and feisty song on the album. Afro-Pop will do that to you (it’s the most bankable sub-genre of Afrobeats). On FWMM, the acrimony sets in and Tiwa reminisces on all the ways she felt wronged in the relationship. She asserts her growth and independence.
London created a post-breakup anthem. If you keep listening, you WILL keep listening.
Pakalamisi (Feat. Hamzaa)
For an artiste with such a huge platform, putting others on is too important for the culture. Tiwa Savage provides a giant’s shoulder for Hamzaa to rise through.
Hamzaa glides on Ozedicus’s beats effortlessly. There’s a sister-like synergy between both artistes as they navigate what’s its like when you can’t stop drinking about someone.
Psychology says, people (especially men) enjoy the thrill of the chase, once they get it – they start to relent. “Attention” is a woman asking her lover for the barest minimum. It’s a pretty common struggle and there are tons of women who relate to this. With Black Jerzee behind the boards, we get meticulous production. To some listeners, “Attention’s” placement might raise question marks.
More House music, but this time, our sonic journey takes us from Chicago (in “Save My Life”) to prime Afrohouse music. With a career that has seen her rise from providing backup vocals to headlining the biggest shows, Tiwa asks for her flowers. She’s earned it.
Tiwa takes us to church. “Celia’s Song” is grand, beautiful and emotional. It’s a reassertion of self, a celebration of her faith and dedicated to her mother.
From his songwriting to his background vocals, Moelogo’s impressiveness is literally all over this track. However, Tiwa sings with the delivery of a woman who’s been to hell and back. Pheelz’s production and magic with the drums remind us that Celia is a solid African narrative.
Final Thoughts on Celia
Celia is a moment, not just for Tiwa but for Nigerian music in general. It is one of very few albums that are equal parts fun, assertive and vulnerable. The only let down might be the inclusion of “Attention” on the project. For all the thematic coherence it brings, its an extra beam that might offset the balance of “equal” parts. However, it’s Tiwa’s narrative and “Attention’s” message is an important one.
Tiwa Savage’s Celia is an Afro-R&B record, sonically this means, not everyone will find it appealing. However, it is the sound of Tiwa taking control. It is the sound of her truth and honesty, and we are happy to hear it.
Top picks are “Pakalamisi”, “FWMM”, “Us (Interlude)”, “Bombay” and “Save My Life”.