5 Takeaways from Fireboy DML’s new album, ‘APOLLO’
Turns our Fireboy is a bit of a bad boy
Turns our Fireboy is a bit of a bad boy
The arrival of Fireboy DML’s sophomore album, less than 18 months after he broke out with the music video for “Jealous”, is something of a remarkable rarity in Afropop, where singles have ruled the music market for decades on end. But if we know anything about Fireboy it’s that he does not conform to any standards, not ones set by society or ones dictated by the industry, even if they seem to be the easiest path to success.
Nowhere is Fireboy’s self-ruling attitude more present than his latest body of work, ‘APOLLO‘. Dedicated to revealing more of himself, and his growth in the short time in which we have known him, ‘APOLLO‘ is a seventeen track course full of memorable moments, sonic highlights, lyrical keeps and emotive breaks, that keep listeners attentive throughout.
Lots stuck out to me upon hearing the album. From the very first lyric proclaiming his status as the Greatest, on the opening of “Champ”, Fireboy’s cocksure attitude shines forth, and on records like “Dreamer” and “Go Away”, his hopeless romanticism dwindles before our very ears. As ‘Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps‘ left us with a flood of emotions, including those three of course, ‘APOLLO‘ leaves its listeners with much to think about too. Here are my five takeaways whilst listening. (I’m in love with this project so feel free to Tweet me yours @dewoju)
“I be king, I’m the best my generation ever seen“, Fireboy opens ‘APOLLO‘ (named after the god of music and poetry). Through the first verse of “Champ”, he sings about his rapid accession to fame, professing that he is a king, a legend in the making and most importantly a champion – so the choir chanting the word would have us believe. Returning to the subject of fame for the pompous “Lifestyle”, Fireboy introduces his preferred technique for handling the spotlight – ghosting.
“All the pressure and the wahala/I just wanna be alone/I don’t wanna see no message on my phone/nothing dey do me you should know/I just feel like I should do this on my own” he sings on his own dedication to the iPhone’s life-saving tool, “Airplane Mode”. On this moody number, Fireboy delves deeper into the pressures of fame; the overdose of carnal attention, competition from his peers and the unavoidable conflict that trails behind ever-increasing commas. Being blown is tough, ‘APOLLO‘ will tell you that. But Fireboy will also tell you that he’d have it no other way.
Though “Champ” is a boastful number towards its end Fireboy reflects on how far he’s come, singing of the start of his journey, “I’m the average boy from the average streets/with an empty pocket and a bag of dreams/many things wey him eyes don see/many tears wey him eyes don bleed“. Opening with bagpipes, the introspective “24 (Interlude)” is a rather gripping number that also reflects upon Fireboy’s life so far, in more detail, as he narrates his life, also chastising himself for the mistakes he has made in it so far, but ultimately concluding with the self-assuring lines “you go dey okay, you go dey alright“. Clearly, life has not been an easy road for Fireboy DML, but the trials haven’t simply ended with fame. Teaming up with his mentor – who would have no doubt imparted words of advice on how to deal with his newfound notoriety – “Afar” details the flip side of fame, the snakes, which Olamide biblically references as “Babylonian, Pharisees and narcissist”.
The first overtly dance-like song is the disco throwback, “Favourite Song”. Apart from the nostalgic feel and the commendable attempt however, “Favourite Song”, just isn’t that that. Fireboy’s lyrics are a bit more simple than we’d usually expect and the melody is a little too unimaginative it actually becomes corny. As Fireboy is a rather intentional artist, these elements to “Favourite Song” are likely deliberate, but for me, they just don’t work to produce the throwback pop song I’d sneak into my ’80s playlist. “Friday Feeling” is the same, not that it’s a disco song, just that it’s not it. Fireboy is pretty good at manipulating different musical fads, reimagining them into his own unique sound, but somehow, with “Favourite Song” and “Friday Feeling”, it seems the clichés get the better of him.
Fireboy and Pheelz are truly a match made in heaven. Producing a total of nine songs, over half the project, Pheelz really brings the best of the best cuts for Fireboy, although Fireboy also has a very big hand in the production process, he says. I already mention the bagpipe intro on the interlude, and though “Favourite Song” and “Friday Feeling” weren’t my cup of tea, I must say that Pheelz did what he had to do on those numbers, especially the former record, for which he ditches all his usual production techniques for an authentically disco production.
Slowing things down for “Dreamer” and “God Only Knows”, Pheelz offers up more simple beats for Fireboy to kill. Incorporating a dreamy whistle over the chorus, “Dreamer” places emphasis on Fireboy’s favourite instrument, the acoustic guitar, whilst “God Only Knows” uses powerful drums to maintain its slow pace. Deep in his bag throughout this album, it comes as no surprise that Pheelz would produce Fireboy’s favourite song, delivering the perfect outro on “Remember Me”. Sneaking a flute into Fireboy’s final instructions to us to remember him, the breezy instrument plays us out with a descending skip, tying the album together in a touching end to the poignant final track.
When the final promotional single, “Tattoo” dropped, we all began to wise up to the fact that Fireboy DML was a bit more lustful than his sparkly love songs on ‘LTG‘ would suggest. Singing, “Let me be beside you or maybe inside you” on “Tattoo” ‘APOLLO”s second track is an early warning of the sexy, libidinous Fireboy that is sure to be populating our TV and radio channels in no time. Other singles, “Eli” and “New York City Girl” include suggestive bars too, “She just needs some dutty love” and “I just wanna have a good time, maybe once maybe two times”, as well as the braggadocio “Lifestyle” upon which he offers to fly a girl out – to budget-debauchery’s capital city, Ibiza – after singing, “Many girls wey dey come find me, I no get time/But in the mean time, come give me something wey go ginger/give it to me while I lean back”.
Male singers are notorious for vocalising fictitious love songs that melt the hearts of their listeners, whilst, in their private lives, crushing every soul that crosses their path with a romantic unavailability that feels unimaginable considering their sweet incantations on their greatest hits. It is disappointing to hear that Fireboy was one of those dream-sellers, but it’s more a relief to know that he’s stopped lying.