Best New Music: BOJ turns messy feelings into a catchy bop on “Emotions”
Best New Music: BOJ turns messy feelings into a catchy bop on “Emotions”

Best New Music: BOJ turns messy feelings into a catchy bop on “Emotions”

BOJ continues to show why he remains a true one-off in the Nigerian music ecosystem

BOJ’s longevity is a consequence of the variety of ways the baritone-voiced singer has continued to impact Afropop. “Paper”, a 2014 song by BOJ, was the first time the word “altê” contextually defined the scope of what would become one of the most significant cultural movements in recent memory. Over the last decade, BOJ has refined his style, becoming one of Nigeria’s premier hook specialists, whether it’s on headlining bangers like “Awolowo”, or featuring on seminal hits on like Show Dem Camp’s “Feel Alright”, or collaborating with Ajebutter22 on a long list of classic jams, including the ‘Make E No Cause Fight’ series.

Last year saw the release of ‘Pioneers’, the belated debut album by DRB, the influential trio BOJ is part of alongside TeeZee and Fresh L. Keeping up with his relentless work ethic, the singer put out a catchy single, “Abracadabra”, in the third quarter of 2020, inviting Davido and Mr. Eazi into the warm groove of his soundscape. “Emotions”, BOJ’s latest single is a deviation from the tone and texture of “Abracadabra”, forgoing the groovy feel of the latter for an ethereal sheen. One of the biggest strengths of BOJ has always been how he avoids stringent genre categorizations and even though he borrows elements of R&B for “Emotions”, the clarity of his thoughts and his signature baritone voice allow the song – an exploration of the toxic aspects of romantic attraction – sound incisive. 

“You’re fucking with my emotions”, BOJ sings in a repeated loop at the beginning of the song, cutting to the heart of the issue with urgency as Krizbeatz’s languid drum pattern sets the perfect tone for the singer to analyse the cause of his dissatisfaction on this track. For all the reflectiveness that this song contemplates, BOJ’s greatest weapon has always been his unique ability to craft euphonic pre-hooks and hooks that live on in the subconscious for hours after the song has played, and he does it with a layered flow here that substitutes “messing” and “fucking” with his emotion on the hook here. 

Crucially, Krizbeatz leaves sufficient half-spaces for BOJ to emote without a drum base, allowing the pull of his voice to function as a musical accessory. When he reels out a list of shortcomings on the part of his lover, it’s, however, hard to tell if he is taking any lessons or soul-searching to correct his faults. The rise of confessional, self-critiquing alt-pop over the last decade has given rise to a trove of unapologetic and self-absorbing songs and while BOJ doesn’t get as far as that here, it is a delicate balance between that devilish streak and the calming cadence of BOJ’s delivery. 

BOJ remains a true one-off in the Nigerian music ecosystem, capable of subsuming messy feelings and happy days into slickly engineered three-minute bits that have you singing along, and “Emotions” benefits from that unflappability. The whispered words that sputter out at the end of the track – “ when you leave, e go cause calamity” – would typically get a vocal flourish from another singer, but BOJ just goes in on it without any false airs, making it a reassuring close to his first single of 2021.

Watch the video for “Emotions” here.

@walenchi Is A Lagos-Based Writer Interested In The Intersection Of Popular Culture, Music, And Youth Lifestyle.