Our First Impressions of Omah Lay’s Debut LP, ‘Boy Alone’
With contributions from Tay Iwar, Niphkeys, Tempoe, Justin Bieber and more.
With contributions from Tay Iwar, Niphkeys, Tempoe, Justin Bieber and more.
Omah Lay has mastered the art of turning real life experiences into widely loved earworms. Since his clandestine entry into the music scene during the COVID-19 pandemic with his soothing voice and honest writing, the Port Harcourt-born singer and songwriter has delivered records with instantly relatable tunes and catchy melodies.
Over the span of two years, Omah Lay has delivered two EPs, stellar party bops and soulful music. Last year, he landed himself one of the biggest songs of the year with “Understand”, a mid-tempo record which sees the singer directly addressing a love interest who has taken his love for granted. The record maintained momentum as it remained at the top of the charts for weeks and earned the highest charting number 1 record on the TurnTable Charts. He rounded off the year with the year “Free My Mind” and shared with listeners the title of his anticipated debut album: ‘Boy Alone.’ For months, Omah Lay has teased the release of his debut album and now, the 14-tracker has finally arrived.
The body of work sees production credits from producers such as Tempoe, Semzi, P.Priime, Niphkeys and more, and features guest appearances from a range of artists, from Justin Bieber to Tay Iwar. The purple-themed, imminently personal 40-minute long LP is bound to dominate discussions over the weekend and most likely, beyond. Here is The NATIVE editorial team’s first impressions of ‘Boy Alone’.
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Moore: While I’m tempted to call “safe haven” the best song due to its enchanting vocalisations, I’m going to have to say “i’m a mess”. As the title suggests, the lyrics make this song one that everyone can relate to, describing messy, complicated emotions. It’s set to a very catchy tune, inviting the listener to sing along to the song on particularly sad days.
Emmanuel: “never forget” has my whole heart. Although Omah Lay says a lot of brave, exciting things throughout ‘Boy Alone,’ he’s very unapologetic here. The lyrics go from angst to tenderness in easy motions, carried by minimally pensive production which is divided into two parts. Especially in the last verse, Omah makes a case for his A-level pen game, running a scheme that recedes from an emotive standpoint while making observations on the world’s nature.
Dennis: I’m going to go with “soso”. It’s quintessential Omah Lay, in its expressive lyricism, but what makes it special is the passion emitted from the melody and how it interfaces with Tempoe’s instrumental arrangement, which is a colourful slab that pulls from highlife, local gospel, and afro-house.
Wonu: I believe the biggest potential hit record on this album is still “Woman”. The record is easily the most marketable and has a more different feel to it now that its on an album and there’s more context to it, it’s easier for the record to be more appreciated.
Maria: My pick for this is “bend you”. The melody is infectious and the hook is really catchy and at the moment, those are the qualifying attributes of hit songs. It’s a song that’s sure to resonate with people really easily.
Tami: I think the biggest potential hit for me would be “bend you”. There’s just something about the melodies and rhyming pattern on this song that just does it for me. I think it reminds me of 2020 Omah Lay, just that young kid fresh out of Port Harcourt and hungry to show the world his ability. It’s reminiscent of ‘Get Layd’ and that has me coming back for more. It’s not the strongest contender for best written song of the year but not that many songs out today are anyways. Artists should be able to make music for the sake of making sonorous, enjoyable music and I don’t see the harm in making music that finds a way to connect with our emotions while divulging as little as possible of its creator.
Shina: Okay, so there are a lot of shouts for this pick. First of all the album is choke-full of amazing productions. The one I’ll mention first is the Niphkeys-produced “i’m a mess”; I was surprised to find out it was produced by Niphkeys because it is far from the Street Hop style we’ve come to know him for. Another which is currently my favourite song from the album is the P2J produced “i” and my last would be “Understand”. Tempoe served a delightful offering.
Emmanuel: Perhaps the second-most endearing quality of ‘Boy Alone’ (asides Omah Lay’s vocal output) is its production. Kept in as few hands as possible, a coherent feel emerges. The three-song run of “i’m a mess,” “temptations” and “Understand” really does stand out, though. It begins with Niphkeys’ lofi-inspired percussion teasing Omah’s most tear-jerking performance while the latter tracks draw sonic semblances from early 2000s R&B, using vocal reverberations to construct the parallels between romantic tension and dealing with bigger demons.
Wonu: Anything Tempo touches just somehow does it for me. I think the best production will be “soso”. There’s this feel to the beat from the combination of the chords and the drums, I think Tempoe really outdid himself on the production of this track, I’m very impressed. Close second for me will be P2J on “tell everybody”. The strings on this record are so sincere and honest, my type of music.
Maria: My biggest skip is “Attention”, and before anyone comes for me it’s not a horrible song, it’s just not as great as I expected a Justin Bieber feature to sound. In comparison to other songs on the album, it’s not a song I’ll be running back to listen to.
Tami: Honestly, I think I need to spend more time with this album before I come to any conclusions about its biggest skips. For me, I think Omah Lay’s music really represented a time in our lives: months deep in a global pandemic and stuck at home figuring out the uncertainty of the future. So, for his debut album, I expected a little departure from that familiar and comfortable beat he had been striding since his debut EP but ‘Boy Alone’ didn’t fulfill that for me. It’s a big skip on many songs only because I’m yet to fully take in their intricacies. I will definitely have to run back a lot of these tracks in the near future.
Moore: My biggest skip will have to be “temptations”. Coming fifth on the track list, it comes after other low energy songs, while lacking the qualities to draw you in.
Tami: The strongest guest verse for me would be Tay Iwar on “tell everybody”. I’m definitely biased to anything Tay Iwar and have been excited to hear him on more features since his killer verse on Wizkid’s “True Love” back in 2020. So, I was more than excited to get to the Tay Iwar verse and listen to his sheer brilliance and he absolutely did not disappoint. It’s one of my favorite verses on the album and has one of the most engaging beats as well. Omah Lay and Tay were the all-star combo we didn’t know we needed till now.
Emmanuel: There weren’t many guests on ‘Boy Alone’ and I think that just plays into the vision of the project. Omah Lay’s solo releases tend to better capture the delicate turmoil of his mindstate. As we know, this is the crux of his lyrical abilities. So far into his career, Justin Bieber has been among the few who’s able to shift the needle for him—which is why I think he’s the best guest on here. “Attention” works far better as an album cut; within the framework of a young man trying to find peace, it’s a desperate plea for female attention. Bieber’s excellent work on the first verse and pre-chorus perfectly sets up Omah Lay. Even when those parts are done, the Canadian superstar lingers in the background, providing vocal assistance and through that firmly imprinting his vibe on the record.
Shina: Best guest verse for me would be the Tay Iwar feature. Of course I’m already biased on this choice because of my dislike for the Justin Bieber-assisted “Attention”, but this is not my only reason for picking this as the best guest verse. Tay Iwar’s vocal contribution to this record is near perfect on a complementing stellar production. Strongly feel this song could have appeared earlier on the album.
Emmanuel: As expected, the contents of Omah Lay’s unfiltered thoughts are the standout of his debut album. However, it’s the sonic leanness which most surprises me. On these beats you’ll hear an artist who remains unfazed by grand gestures; he’s rather simple in executing his stylistic peculiarities. It’s a project that not just delivers on its ambitious title, but pours into various levels of the influences that formed a man like Stanley Omah Didia. In the collection of these fragmented levels, ‘Boy Alone’ effectively captures the sex-crazed, therapist-needing nature that inspires the toxic masculinity of Nigerian Pop music. What this means is that Omah Lay, like every great writer according to Teju Cole, is conversant with the history of his field while in conversation with it. Such brilliance is destined for the top.
Wonu: Overall, ‘Boy Alone’ is an honest body of work by an artist who has a lot to get off his mind, storytelling at its finest. Omah Lay truly meant it when he said he poured all his emotions into this body of work. The album is honest and true and I believe Omah Lay made a masterpiece. An 8/10 body of work if you ask me, with very strong and solid songwriting as well. The production is not too complex but he did justice to each track and delivered a stellar body of work.
Dennis: What I like the most about Omah Lay’s brand of honesty is that it finds clarity without unnecessarily reaching for catharsis. That’s what ‘Boy Alone’ continues to work with, emotional vulnerability without gimmicks. Coupled with a groovy batch of beats passed through something of a Lo-Fi filter, his lyricism and conversational melodic style are immersive. The Boy Alone continues to set himself apart.
Moore: Omah Lay’s ‘Boy Alone’ is an album that is easy to listen to. The entire project is filled with slow, atmospheric songs. Due to the slowness, the project can feel lethargic in a way that won’t be welcome in all moods. In the right setting, however, the album will provide a very pleasant listening experience due to its consistency and well produced tracks.
You can listen to ‘Boy Alone’ here.