The last two years have been rather successful for the young crooner, Daniel Anidugbe. From the dizzying success of Woju, to the newly globally hot Naija Pop superstar, Wizkid, covering his single, Good Time. The record has no superstar features, that task was delegated to G-Worldwide label mate, Sugarboy. At a time when Naija music, pop and Neo-Afrobeat especially, is under a spotlight; there’s increasing pressure for artists to leave the kpangolo lyrics to songs that don’t travel as well. Luckily, this young man appears to be have grasped the mood of the moment. The album opens with New King, a boastful underwhelming introduction his alter ego, Vado. Thankfully, it’s not an indication of what the album has in store.
The album really picks up on the third track, here is where it becomes apparent that his song writing is nothing short of a revelation, Jombo, a delightful record on premature responsibility; ‘As I see your face and big belle, girl I have to change my ways, certainly, yeah?/Me myself, I dey pray for my daily bread’’
The album’s highlights occur over four songs, Gobe, a story centered on his attempts at success and the knock backs he receives, the song is laid over a mid tempo beat underpinned by gongs in an old school Yoruba call and response style. Are You Alright, a gentle dig at an old flame who’s suddenly resurfaced, he’s quite alright to watch her do her thing, ‘omo gimme some, some some’ he sings on the chorus, but he’s quick to let her know he’s out of her league because she ‘too like money, t’ori owo f’alhaji’ (get with alhaji because he has money) and ‘o fe f’ayonge, elo ni salary mi? (you’d like a young man but how much is my salary?) he manages to address a gnawing social issue over a sexy mid tempo beat, he admonishes without sounding cross, it’s a joy to listen to.
Daniel really hits surprising heights with Alone, a song composed with such intent one cannot but marvel. The preceding skit serves to set the song up; he’s a young up and coming artist looking to record his first song, he sighs in exasperation as the song begins. He speaks to an unidentified counterpart, assures him of continued commitment who he implores; ‘ma lo ko ba mi’ (don’t get me in trouble), it’s a song that must be heard to be appreciated. Daniel employs West African Francophone melodies on the song; it could easily have been delivered by Youssou N’Dour or Salif Keita – this song should be a continent wide hit if G-Worldwide gives it the correct treatment.
DJ Coublon’s work on this album bears remarking on; African music is at an interesting juncture and here is a producer whose love of live instrumentation pays homage to his music forbears; Good Time is a record Fela himself would be proud of were he an artist today, from its big bang motif to the percussion. Coublon and young Daniel have the oft sought chemistry that allows an artist of Daniel’s relative inexperience to produce such mature music. At 22, Daniel is already at the level his contemporaries honed over an album, tens of singles and features.
This album’s shortcomings centre around its length and the two-for-one move G-Worldwide played with Sugarboy’s constant presence on the record, from singing background vocals most notably on Gobe and Give Into me to featuring on three songs. Of the features, only one, Napo, works; Ghetto Boys doesn’t sit well on an album of this quality and Upon Me sounds unfinished, songs that should have been left in the cutting room. Napo, an infectious Galala tune that loosens Daniel up and continues the style he first debuted on last year’s smash single, Raba. Further, Woju and Laye should have been special edition offerings. The album should have four songs fewer, at the very least. Also, G-Worldwide has been hyper-protective over Daniel, shielding him from collaborations with other artists most especially and perhaps having recruited superstars in Tiwa Savage and Davido to assist the Woju remix to little effect, there was a reluctance to see the value in further external features. Though he held his own on the record, one wonders how much more fun New Era might have been had the artist been allowed to pit his skills against contemporaries and veterans alike. He clearly looks up to Tuface, whose delivery is evident on Give It To Me and Nothing Dey, he also possesses a similar husk to 9ice, another artist he’s expressed often admiration for; the huskiness that the Gongo Aso singer made instantly recognisable is one Daniel is also blessed with.
New Era is a triumph; it’s some Reggae, Galala, Neo-Afrobeat (in the proper sense), not to mention the Ska influence on Kudi. No nonsensical, ill considered lyrics with an over reliance on the beat here. As a songwriter, Kiss is in a class of his own; he was a rapper, a fact evident most evident on Sin City, he sings; ‘not that other guys ain’t cool but/cruel push me and I push cool/finally, Vado see past dem/I mean no care but I still famz dem/boku l’owo mi and I still dash dem’ all delivered with the confidence of one who’s comfortable in his own skin. The song calls for a celebration of night time pleasure, he eschews those things whilst proving he can still hang – ‘they can’t believe that I smoke no kush/that I’m the dem choose.
Listening to this album is a pleasure; the imageries he manages to evoke, his composure and complex melodies all serve to remind that pop music can be well considered and produced with longevity as an outcome. One gets the feeling that the length of the album was a label decision, given how tightly controlled his artistic choices are and that’s a mild shame, this could have been Naija Pop perfection, still it is a very good debut from a standout artist.
New Era is a well produced contemporary record; as well the standout DJ Coublon (Woju, Napo, Alone, Are You Alright, proven hitmakers; MasterKraft (Jombo, Sin City), Young John (Mama), Jay Sleek (Gobe, Kudi and Give Into Me) also graced the album as well as up and coming come cats; Beatburx (Another Day) and KimBeatz (Duro).
Another Day, Jombo, Mama, Gobe, Napo, Kudi, Are You Alright, Kiss Me, Sin City, Alone, Duro, All God are this record’s highest moments.