Best New Music: Joeboy Mints Aspirational Soul On “Normally”, Alongside BNXN & ODUMODUBLVCK
Best New Music: Joeboy Mints Aspirational Soul On “Normally”, Alongside BNXN & ODUMODUBLVCK

Best New Music: Joeboy Mints Aspirational Soul On “Normally”, Alongside BNXN & ODUMODUBLVCK

A masterful arrangement that emboldens the singer's sophomore album

Pop stars come in different shapes and sizes. Some are amorphous with their influences, others are more direct in their approach. In Nigerian music, few are as direct as Joeboy. Where his contemporaries eagerly create outside the seams of local soundscapes, he is dedicated to the Nigerian experience. His music exists in the lively intersection between weary old soul and youthful exhilaration, embedding an adorable vibe onto the music of Joeboy.

When “Baby” was released, it became an instant classic. More than the cherry songwriting which eased soulfully into the bright overtones of the production, it was the atmosphere of the song itself which captivated many. That energy soundtracked the pre-December energy of the country, providing joy in a country that consistently longed for it. Since then becoming one of the most bankable superstars of his generation, Joeboy has consistently demonstrated his grasp on the sound of contemporary Nigerian pop, a simple alternative to all the complexity that is the music industry today.

Over the weekend, Joeboy released his sophomore album. ‘Body & Soul’ was preceded by a string of impressive releases, excluding the title record which was released last before the album. “Contour” became a late-year banger in 2022, with Joeboy impressing his signature vocals over Tempoe’s guitar-streaked production. This year’s “Duffel Bag” continued the artist’s focus on the breezier elements of  romantic union; taking the well-trodden route of promising niceties to one’s love interest, it extended the sweet sonic run-up to ‘Body & Soul’.

The album collects pulsating pop sounds polished with sensual choices. Cohesive and minimalist, its energy banks on the almost peerless ability of Joeboy to catch a tune. This skill is demonstrated early in the album, on the first record, “Normally”. Featuring the duo of BNXN and ODUMODUBLVCK, it’s a victory song which looks squarely in the face of old demons while celebrating the gargantuan wins that comes with building up one’s profile.

Produced by Beatsbyko and Illerixo, a vital energy permeates the record. Almost muted percussion is paired with dreamlike loops, creating a spacey beat which allows the musicians to thrive. Between the natural ease of Joeboy and BNXN’s inspirational wordbending and Odumodu’s trademark street wisdom, there’s a lot to like about this record. It’s a gathering of originals, after all. Taking short verses across the song’s runtime, Joeboy proves the perfect host to start things off. He sings about divine backup which is most poignantly captured in the line, “Only see blessing, never see yawa/ Can’t understand there’s a higher power”, while BNXN takes after the song’s middle section.


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BNXN does great in this holding role, purposefully connecting the distinct styles of Joeboy and Odumodu. He plays a similar role in the Kizz Daniel and Seyi Vibez-featured “Gwagwalada”, which is unarguably one of the most penetrating records of the year. His melodious range also enriches the song’s aspirational hue, especially the cue-in of the Yoruba language which has, more or less, become the quintessential linguistic medium for street narratives. That done, ODUMODUBLVCK arrives to polish the song with his riveting rapping style, laying down affirmative quips with the readiness of one who has been getting returning gains on the superstar lifestyle.

His verse strips down his signature energy but maintains the internal technicalities, such as the vivid language and personal-wrought inflections. Oscillating between self-motivational bars and veiled sexual allusions, he delivers a bar such as “Physically, I be like person wey drink Agbo” side by side with “Their kele dey hustle for my bone” without losing narrative balance, indeed proving his accomplished grasp on his style. Finishing off with melodies and bigging up his collaborators (“Joeboy settle for your glory, Buju roll it up”), the record’s communal zest is masterfully interwoven with its primary direction of aspiration.

On ‘Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic’, the solo route was favoured by Joeboy. He went alone, without features, for better or worse imprinting his style across that debut album. This time around, the creative room is decidedly larger, inclusive of the fresh voices in Nigerian pop while touching base with select sounds from around the world. “Normally” is emblematic of that vision, although it plays closer to home more than away. With an excellent choice of features, it’s a song which captures where Joeboy is right now: at peace, and existing beautifully within the safety of love and community.