I first heard Wizkid’s Smile on the first day of its release. I was driving down the streets of Enugu to my buddy’s house. I switched on the radio, and Wizkid’s voice croons through the speaker: “I love your love yeah, I love it when you smile”. The way he says it makes me grab the wheel tighter.
He is Wizkid on this track. Wizkid, not Starboy. He is Starboy when he sings Soco, Manya, and Blow, or when he is featuring on a DJ Tunez track. Here is unadulterated, pure Wizkid singing: “Tell me baby where you dey baby, I go dey your side”. He says “company creates companions” and I think of my long distance lover, and tears begin to well in my eyes.
Wizkid is the quintessential lover boy. He has been since his debut single, “Holla at ya boy”. He has built an illustrious career on pop songs with two main themes: love and women. When he is not singing “I love my baby, he is telling a love interest to do a “naughty ride”.
For lingua fun, he can ask her to Soco. Oh, scratch that — Soco is not Wizkid, that is Starboy. Starboy — the Wizkid franchise he singularly created to cater to the local, relatable and unflinchingly loyal audience on the Nigerian streets.
Not everyone can successfully own two sounds. You would need to be Wizkid. If you are, you can pull off a Manya and a Brown Skin girl. You can have a local face and an international mask. You can be both Starboy and Wizkid. Much like the same way the trinity works; only this time, you’re dealing with two persons in one god.
Riding on a P2J-produced heavy bass line segued with guitar riffs and intermittent kicks, we see a more thoughtful Wiz from the opening line; both in songwriting and in approach to context. He says to an unnamed love interest, “I can be your substance.” “Substance” here works on different levels. Firstly, it says “I can be your high, your drug, you can rely on me”, secondly, it says “ I can be something real, something of substance to you, something permanent”. In this first verse, Wiz acknowledges that it is better not to keep his love interest hidden.
He realizes that love should be expressed fully and without reservations; that one should only love in the full knowledge of the other. He says love don’t hide/ company creates companions. “So right” he adds, in remorseful admission.
Oh I love your love, I love it when you smile. And here it is — the subject behind the rendition; the inspiration that birthed a 4-minutes, 11-seconds song is a smile. I think about this while driving and I smile too. I realize that love seeks to elevate the ordinary. I think about my lover and her smile. I smile again.
Listen to Wizkid’s smile here:
He coasts into the chorus, and it is otherworldly. He sings “ I will do anything for my love/ run inside a building up in flames just to be with my love/ I will do anything for my love/ oh lord.
As I speed down the empty Enugu streets, I feel like he is singing about my life. I think about how lonely I am now, in the middle of a pandemic. I say to myself, if my lover were at the end of the street — in a burning building — I would jump right into it. I mean it, and hearing him give life to my thoughts with his voice reaffirms my conviction.
The second verse brings in American singer/songwriter, H.E.R who clearly understands the song’s DNA and goes right into its heart. “We can do this all night/ love me ’cause it feels right/ say you need me in your life”. She punctuates the beats with her sublime vocals, making her one-minute appearance memorable.
What Wizkid does on his second verse is mastery. Nothing else. Wizkid blends RnB, Afrobeat and reggaeton to create a distinctive mashup. You could easily forget the lyrical aspect of the song, and have a great experience just bopping your head to the flow. It is Afrofusion lyricism at its finest. Wizkid in his magic.
“Kiss you every morning, baby, I go hold you tight oh/ Treat you like no other, everyday na Valentine/ Omoge mi forever, be my paradise”
Plunged right into my feelings, I parked by the road for a bit and facetimedmy lover. I tell her I would do anything for her love. She smiles, and my body suddenly feels like a song. After getting to my buddy’s place, I had Smile on repeat as we sipped cognac at his condo, overlooking the quiet streets, talking tech stuff and the rising number of Covid-19 cases. Joy and sadness sharing the air at the same time.
“Smile” offers a Wizkid more introspective in his songwriting — a unique gift we have seen glimpses of numerous times, which he deliberately refuses to flex”
We don’t know how much of this material — in terms of songwriting — will mark and define “Made in Lagos” but if Wizkid’s discography is anything to go by: women, love and sex is a constant and predominant feature. But “Smile” offers a Wizkid more introspective in his songwriting — a unique gift we have seen glimpses of numerous times, which he deliberately refuses to flex, typically sacrificing it for monster bangers. However, Wizkid seems to say this time, “I’m 30. I can sing about anything, even my lover’s smile.”
Smile is westward-looking and strategically chosen for a wider audience, as he attempts to crack the international market with his highly anticipated album “Made in Lagos”. We hope it does the trick.