Our First Impressions of Fireboy DML’s New Album ‘Playboy’
a coherent and emotionally layered body of work
a coherent and emotionally layered body of work
Fireboy DML is not new to weaving his life experiences into a coherent body of work. Among the artists of his generation, he has proven to be the most eager to create transcendental records within the conceptual plane of an album. So far, so good, as he’s delivered two critically-acclaimed projects since 2019, with the first ‘Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps’ widely earning the tag of a modern classic.
In the latter months of 2021, the YBNL and EMPIRE artist kicked off the run-up to his third movement. “Peru” was allegedly ‘leaked’ by label boss Olamide, but its breezy songwriting and effortless swag soon caught onto a swathe of Nigerian listeners. Not long after we’re hearing Ed Sheeran on the record, raving during international shows how he loved the song on first listen. Ever since, the 26-year-old artist has gotten a bigger international profile, getting on a song with Madonna and not long ago, becoming the first Afropop artist to perform at the main stage of the BET Awards.
‘Playboy’ arrives then, with much fanfare. It arrives on the back of these wins, and is naturally reminiscent of how we received his two albums. If the title, album artwork, and lead single reveals anything, it’s that Fireboy DML is exploring the more sensual aspects of his personality. Given his impeccable record as a writer, this is one album the members of our editorial team would have a great time discussing. In our tradition of first impressions, here are our honest and unedited thoughts about the much-anticipated ‘Playboy’.
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Tela: Each song on this album is meticulously produced and curated. Adore and Peru are two contenders fighting for this spot. But I have to give it to Peru. Ever since its release last year, I have been a prisoner of the composition. The constant repetition of “Peru Para” gets me excited and singing along. In my own words, this is an example of timeless songwriting and production. The euphonious singing of Fireboy backed up by the numerous adlibs show that he is a born star who has perfected his craft. The drum bass lines add ferociousness to the song and the display composition doesn’t have to be complex. Its simplicity stands out for me.
Moore: My personal favourite song is the opening track, “Change”. It’s gentle opening draws the listener in, immediately making you focus on its personal, melancholic lyrics. The song consistently swells until it reaches its peak of intensity as Fireboy belts out his complex feelings about his changing life. It’s a song filled with raw emotion about very specific feelings in Fireboy life, while also capturing a feeling of anxiety that everyone can relate to.
Wonu: “Ashawo” is definitely my best song off this project. I’m a big fan of how he tells the story of the Lagos dating pool with such finesse. Of course, the message isn’t ideal, but it’s an extremely catchy song. Over this jumpy Telz production, Fireboy floats smoothly on the song. He goes from mostly being not so apologetic about his playboy ways on one verse to sounding committed in the next; how typical. Using repetition techniques on the hook, Fireboy is able to draw the listener’s attention in a few seconds – an art he seems to master over this album, other examples of this found on “Peru” and “Sofri.” “Ashawo” has the suave production and melody, and general aura of a potential hit song.
Oluebube: The best song for me on this album is “Change.” The song particularly speaks to me and reminds me of the EndSars protest and how the youths were united for a single cause. It is also very inspirational, as it speaks of those expectations that people have of you when you reach a certain level and how you have to live up to those expectations.
Damilola: The production of this album is so amazing and my favourite out of all the songs is “Adore” which features Euro. I particularly like this song because I fell in love with it on my first listening. I haven’t seen enough hype on this song but I believe it’s a sleeper hit with massive potential, especially because the other features on the album include big names like Chris Brown, Rema and Ed sheeran. If people decide to relax and listen to “Adore,” they would realise how beautiful the song is. I believe it is very important to give small names a chance too because they deserve the attention as well!
Cynthia: There is a lot of creativity and diverse sounds in this album that one can’t ignore. My first choice in the album for best production is “Peru” because it had me transfixed with its stellar percussion and soft piano melodies in the background. Shizzi has been known for producing great hits and “Peru” is no exception. My second choice would be “Havin’ Fun” which has this reggae old school feel to it. This sound takes us to a different side of Fireboy and allows listeners to see him experiment with new sounds than what we are used to.
Maria: My first pick for this is “Peru.” I’ve already spun it quite a number of times but I can never get tired of it. Shizzi did a great job putting this together as the soft piano chimes in the background go perfectly with the heavy hitting drums to create this groovy song. The melody is memorable and its replay value is through the roof, no wonder it’s already a certified hit.
Next is “Diana.” It’s the perfect fusion of Afropop, R&B and Dancehall. Phantom was in his bag with this.
Emmanuel: I found the production on this album to be quite delightful. However, my body had a visceral reaction to the sizzling percussion and horns of “Afro Highlife”. Before discussing the obvious topic of its title, the production is quite Afrobeat-influenced and carries the energetic live quality of Kuti’s sound. That, to me, was a masterstroke of interpretation because that sound has been constantly rejigged and used, but keeping it fresh… that’s another thing. Now, to the title, I don’t quite hear the Highlife element in this song; the guitars aren’t as prominent as the horns, neither is the delivery quite Highlife-esque. I’ve already seen someone describe the record as Afrobeat, and while I haven’t clocked that in myself, it’s about time we have a conversation about genres and how much freedom the artist should have in naming them.
Moore: The song with the biggest potential is definitely “Ashawo”. It’s a song that has wide appeal. It has a tempo that’s just energising enough to dance to, but is also low-key enough to not be overwhelming. It’s playful lyrics are also guaranteed to place the listeners in an equally playful, cheerful mood and invite them to sing along.
Wonu: The biggest potential will surely have to be “Ashawo” and for many reasons. One, when you hear “Funkula!” you automatically know something heavy is coming. Telz did something amazing on the production of this record, I must say. Two, Fireboy was passing a subtle message about what listeners of this generation want to not just hear but will also want to speak about. The buzz around the record is not only going to be huge but will also last for quite a while.
Cynthia: “Bandana” has the biggest potential, for me, because it has an exceptional sound that everyone can vibe to and it can be easily understood by the majority of audience plus a catchy feel to its lyrics that one would find oneself singing after a couple of replays.
Emmanuel: For me, the best guest verse is not even a verse. But what Asake does on “Bandana” just highlights his sweltering status as one of Nigerian Pop’s biggest influencers today. The chorus chant is just one aspect of why the whole thing works; within that boisterous enchantment, Asake’s rhyme schemes and references (“Bandana l’ori biti 2Pac”) contribute to the song’s alluring hipness. Rema did well with his verse too on “Compromise”, layering those slick vocals with sensual purpose; on any other project, he’d be top place. But here Asake is just too contemporary to ignore.
Tela: Euro’s presence on “Adore” cannot be ignored. He simply swerves into the song serenading his muse with numerous sweet nothings with a dash of simping. I love how he was at par with the album and song’s title showing he put an effort. His cadence and delivery convince you of his heart’s desire as he goes off “Violets are blue and these Roses are red, I should be burning these flowers instead.” He is not trying too hard with his lines as he tells you an easy-going story of a playboy in love.
Wonu: Well the album does not really have any major skips to me but my biggest skip will have to be “Peru” and this is not because this record is not good quality but because this particular record has been out for over a year and has been on the airways for quite some time but other than that, “Peru” is a monster hit.
Moore: While I wouldn’t rush to skip any song on this project, I’d say the biggest skip has to be “Afro Highlife.” While it’s a very enjoyable song in the right setting, it’s one that needs to be played in the right mood. It’s not as versatile as some of the other songs featured in the project. The fact that I still wouldn’t skip it 9 times out of 10 is a testament to the quality of ‘Playboy.’
Oluebube: For me, “Change” is still the one. The beats of the drums, piano strings, and the voice of Fireboy just provokes a certain feeling that one can’t help but think. This song particularly stems from a place of emotion especially when he says “stepping in a room and I got everybody smiling. Don’t know if they like me for myself or my talent. Most times I feel like I be suffering but I’m silent.” This just speaks to those fears that we have which are relatable.
Maria: “Change” takes the cake here. Fireboy’s album intros are always powerful as he is an amazing songwriter but this is his best yet. Lyrics like, “See my life’s about to change, but I feel some typa way, everyone around me keeps asking me the same “Are you ready for the pain?” tell the all too relatable tale of the fears that come with a new phase in life. He also touches base on the struggles of being a young superstar, saying “It’s kinda hard to deal with the pressure but I’m trying / “Don’t know if they like me for my person or my talent”. The song in its entirety is resonant, honest and relatable. I get it Fireboy. I get it.
Tela: There is nothing as satisfying as the perfect introduction to an album. “Change” is a soulful piece showing Fireboy DML’s growth. He makes a statement with the song, acknowledging his greatness in the Afropop industry with lyrics such as “…its kinda hard to deal with pressure but I am silent,” a reference to the fact that he is currently on the international watch since the release of the smash hit “Peru”. It might be the piano keys or his prolific storytelling skills but this verse does it for me.
Wonu: ‘Playboy’ is a solid body of work. Everything about the album stands out, from the production and engineering to the lyrical content. On his debut album ‘Laughter Tears & Goosebumps’, I believe Fireboy had set the bar extremely high but with every new release, the artist continues to redefine himself and his sound. A major takeaway from this album is that Fireboy wants to leave a mark on the world with his music. He doesn’t fail to not just say it but also find a lasting impression that listeners can always hold on to. A very commendable body of work from the artist and all the contributors on the project, Fireboy has another solid body of work under his belt.
Damilola: I wasn’t so pleased with the first song and that gave me a scare because I thought it was going to be like that till the very end. But to my surprise, the album because better as I kept on listening and I love it now! I believe Fireboy is a unique artiste because his music always finds a way to stand out. He has progressed so much over the years and now has big names like Ed Sheeran and Chris Brown on his album which is very impressive. Every aspect from the engineering to the lyricism and the transitioning is perfect and I think you have to be patient while listening to the album for the first time in order to enjoy it.
Emmanuel: Having come through the gates with artistically ambitious projects such as ‘LTG’ and ‘Apollo,’ here Fireboy wants to lay back a little. That, for me, is very crucial in parsing the execution of the album. On first listen you wouldn’t find obviously great songs, but just like “Peru,” I expect a number of songs to slowly warm their way into the hearts of listeners. Eventually, this is the album that reminds you that Fireboy is still a young man after all. He might have made his name being a poet for the sad generation but hedonism still ranks high among art’s enduring subjects. For me, that might be the reason for the relaxed nature of his songwriting here but overall, he does well in executing that particular vision.
Stream Fireboy DML’s third album ‘Playboy’ below.
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