Should Nigerian music albums be consistent?
On March 25, one of the biggest Nigerian music stars of the moment, Rema, released his highly anticipated debut album, Rave and roses. After three years of back-to-back EPs and hit singles, everyone was eager to hear a full-length album from prodigy Mavin. While the album offered hits, some people wondered if it was a cohesive album or just a collection of singles.
It got me thinking, “What exactly does it mean for an album to be cohesive?” but above all, “Is it even necessary?”. To answer my burning questions, I reached out to three music lovers who are also in the business, and here’s what they had to say.
Ogagus — Music Director and A&R
What does it mean when people say an album is coherent?
For an album to be coherent, it must be beautiful to listen to from beginning to end. Even when it’s a bunch of songs put together, there’s still a feeling that makes it seem like the artist and his team have put a lot of thought into creating a central theme and organizing the songs in a flowing sequence. For example, when we recorded Chike’s Boo des Booless, we went there with love as the central theme, so most of the songs were created with that in mind. And then we arranged our last songs so that the people listening felt like they were listening to a story. Coherent albums are the best to listen to.
But does an album have to be coherent to succeed?
Not really. I’ve seen a lot of albums become hits without cohesion. But it’s always better when you have both – a cohesive album that is also commercially successful.
What’s a cohesive album that really worked?
Mehn, the most recent has to be Boy Spyce’s self-titled EP. It’s supposed to present him as an artist, and it does the job well. From the first song dreams until the last track Fate, everything is perfectly connected. Then there’s Burna Boy twice as big and that of Ayra Starr 19 and dangerous. They all felt like complete projects.
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As A&R, you help artists select the songs that make up their albums, how does it work?
As I said, some artists record with a theme, while others simply record their emotions. What I do is listen to everything and help them select the songs that can tell a real story. Songs that work together. Some artists already have an idea of what will work and that makes the process easier. Then there are times when halfway through making an album, the picture becomes clearer and you finally have an idea of the sound you want. Then we make sure everything else follows that sound.
Do you think fans notice whether or not an album is consistent?
The artists feel like the fans don’t, but trust me, it does. Albums that get awards and dominate conversations are consistent albums. That’s a fact.
Belema Iyo — Writer and Afrobeats enthusiast
What is a recent album that you found consistent from start to finish?
This one is tough, but an album that worked for me recently was Asa’s V. This album does things to me and it was very well thought out.
How about an album that wasn’t cohesive but still worked?
Can’t think of a recent album, but went back to listen to Wizkid’s Super star and this album does nothing when it comes to having a theme or even mixing and mastering. It’s just a jam album that introduced us to Wizkid and I think he did it well.
But should each album follow a theme or be consistent?
I mean it doesn’t guarantee that your album will be a success but honestly isn’t it better to release good work than something mediocre? If an album isn’t consistent, people will quickly move on. I always feel like artists should release projects that will live on way beyond the three singles they released. Make sure every song has the potential to be this song.
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Nathan Shayen — Artist and Producer
What goes into recording an album for you?
A lot. LOL. I start by conceptualizing the whole album by specifying the topics I would like to cover and the general theme of the album. I do this so I don’t go blind without a sense of direction. The next step is to determine the overall sound of the album. How do I want to switch between tracks? Will I put breaks in between? Etc. Once done, I start writing and try to stick to the theme I have chosen.
Do you always know how many tracks you want to stream?
No. I record as much as I can, then look at my concept and select all the songs that tell the story from start to finish. I tend to have leftover tracks that I later release as singles.
So in all of this, is cohesion important to you?
I would say yes, it is necessary for me. But it also depends on what I’m trying to get out of the album. For cohesive albums, there’s probably a lot of review value because it’s a story. When it’s not consistent, fans tend to choose whatever they want. And I believe that artists make projects so that fans can listen to them holistically and get something out of them. When it’s not consistent, I run the risk of people not understanding what I want to do.
So fans notice these things?
As a fan myself, I do. We are at a time when we appreciate a little more art. We are more aware now and tap into what our artists are putting out. Although you never fully understand an artist’s intent, you can tell when it all comes together. And that’s important.
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