By Dennis Peter
Beyond branding purposes, what really, genuinely qualifies Mayorkun as the Mayor of Lagos? With more fingers on one hand than hit singles, the DMW signee had already begun parading himself as royalty, organizing sold out shows across the country and going on a headlining tour in the UK off those songs. In a market that places a premium on being able to score hit songs, coupled with winning the highly coveted Headies’ Next Rated award earlier this year, Mayorkun’s self-appointed title is an interesting, hazy mix of of-the-moment and premature. With his debut album, also titled The Mayor Of Lagos, the haziness still exists; worse still, there’s little to no attempt at deepening the superficiality of the label Mayorkun is so much attached to.
Here’s the thing, Mayorkun doesn’t need to release an album. With his achievements so far, he’s very bankable as is, and for an artist who clearly cherishes the mundane task of making potential hit songs, his preferred mode of operation rarely translates into a thoroughly enjoyable body of work, much less one that’s intriguing. Even if they aren’t explicit, albums are statements, and they only work well when the artist inhabits the songs with a magnetic story or personality. From his fairy-tale signing with Davido, which was put in motion off a video of him singing being posted to social media and subsequently tagging the DMW boss who came across it, to the songs prior to TMOL; Mayorkun comes across as a very likeable person, which translates into his music, but definitely not magnetic.
In doses, hinging solely on likeability works quite well, but using the same strategy across a span of fourteen songs is only guaranteed to create a fluff piece, which is the case with TMOL. Counting on nothing but Mayorkun’s gregarious personality, the singer’s debut is basic, a typical, cookie cutter Nigerian pop album with no rhyme or reason other than fulfilling contractual obligations and/or finding the next hit song.
The only moment on TMOL that hints at something more substantial than the wide smile with which Mayorkun graces the album cover is the autobiographical attempt on “Intro (Feelings),” and even that is marred by the usual ambiguity and impersonal manner with which most Nigerian pop singers habitually describe their come-up. (At least there’s the customary, ever welcome phone call from the mum.) From then on, the album dives, head first, into its very mediocre barrel of expected topics, which includes but isn’t limited to admiring the bodacious shape of a lady up till the point of thanksgiving (“Sope”), typical heartfelt love songs (“Jonze Me” “Red Handed”), and celebrating his wealth and its use in service of spraying alluring derrieres (“Fantasy”). Bang average execution often follows suit, rounding out proceedings nicely.
The closest thing to a stellar deep cut on TMOL is the DJ Coublon produced “Aya Mi,” a brisk but gentle smouldering folksy afro-pop love song with high potential of landing on wedding playlists. It’s Mayorkun’s pen at its best, scene setting writing that’s endearing, impressively simplistic but obviously far from impulsive. As much as “Aya Mi” benefits from Mayorkun’s prosaic personality on wax, it also exposes how one-dimensional he is as an artist, which would be less of a problem if being innocuous wasn’t front and centre of TMOL. On another of the album’s better songs, the previously released “Bobo,” label boss Davido easily upstages protégé with his ever-ready mix of impassioned and imperial, springing a couplet like “I no be from ghetto/but na me dey run your ghetto” with an intoxicating confidence that is distinct to the artist and instantly noteworthy.
Prior to announcing the release date for TMOL, Mayorkun played a live-streamed three-game series on Fifa 18 against premier contemporary singer Simi, with stakes being that Mayorkun would forfeit putting out his album in 2019 should he lose to his opponent. Mayorkun won—obviously since the album is out—but maybe he should’ve purposely taken the L and also asked for help from Simi, particularly in the writing aspect. TMOL is equally choked with clunkers and cringe-inducing lines, either opting for one low hanging fruit after the other or cribbing lines from older artists in the least creative ways possible. There’s a regurgitation of a terrible Iceprince lyric that died on its initial arrival about six years ago on “Jonze Me”, the D’banj assisted “Oshepete” relies on the least imaginative reinterpretation of a Fela lyric as its cornerstone, and Mayorkun wastes a slinky beat on “Drama Queen” by being exceptionally and brazenly oafish. While Mayorkun does have a good handle on enjoyable melodies and is supplied with consistent, sometimes bland, production, the strengths of TMOL don’t do much to paper over the blunders.
Mayorkun should have done everything better on TMOL, but the album also comes with questions as to if he even has the capacity to do better. If TMOL is any indication, Mayorkun is an artist with a total of zero creative bones in his body, which wouldn’t be a problem if he was compelling enough with what he does already or showcased signs of something better bubbling underneath. Mayorkun will score more hit songs in the future, he’s talented enough for that, but unless we’re in a kakistocracy, there’s no way Mayorkun is the mayor of Lagos.
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