Best New Music: Naira Marley Showcases His Range On “Montego Bay”

a standout of his debut album 'God's Timing The Best.'

Naira Marley is intentional about his creative output. In 2019, during his seminal breakout run, he amassed a teeming slew of vivacious fans who he dubbed as “Marlians”: an army of youths notorious for their defining bohemian ethos. In Nigeria’s conservative society, he was widely regarded as a morally bereft due to his slew of salacious song lyrics and head-turning dances. However to his core fans, Naira was a totem of freedom.


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This motif still trails him today. Naira Marley remains the physical embodiment of individualism. True to his mettle, he released his much-anticipated debut album ‘God’s Timing The Best’ on his terms. His debut album arrived barely two weeks after he initially announced it, without any significant roll-out strategy and to compound matters, right on a busy Monday morning.

Yet, the brazen Bohemian spirit still colours most of his work on his album. Across 14 tracks, he peppers his music with obscene lyrics and experiments with genre-bending sounds while perennially chipping away at the status quo. On rare occasions, however, he veers off this set course and reveals a different side to his persona. His debut album provides the perfect milieu for these dormant feelings to erupt. On “O’dun”, against a backdrop of salacious lyrics, he turns inwards and explores the complex tapestry of a love life in a bustling city while on “Owo”, over a serene production, he pulls apart the weighty topics of money and social status.

However, it’s on “Montego Bay”, the standout track from Naira’s debut album ‘GTTB’ that his guiding ethos shines true. On this track, these emotions unite and culminate in a crescendo. Against the backdrop of a melodious velvety instrumental, Naira grapples with the themes of escapism, love and loyalty. Much more than a breezy summer ode to escapism, “Montego Bay” is a suave melodic discourse that spotlights the different facets of his complex and sprawling personality in three prongs: the bohemian troubadour, the love-stricken romantic and the introspective bard.

In Jamaica, Montego Bay is a picturesque tourist destination christened by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century. Encircled by gleaming turquoise waters and populated by lush green palms, the city is reminiscent of a utopian vacation spot. Asides from being a veritable tourist destination, the city also moonlights as a first-choice destination for renegades seeking a fresh start. It is this side of the city that Naira taps on “Montego Bay.” Over the hook, he effusively sings “When I decide to run, I’ll run away. Somewhere far away. Go Montego Bay”, as he plays into the age-old concept of escapism and taps the familiar trope of eloping with a romantic interest to a paradise, free from the typical conundrums of everyday living.

Counterbalancing the palpable romantic aura that colours the record is an eerie apprehension that hides in the shadows and pops its head at select times. Like when he wistfully raps “Me I have God, I never panic. Dem devilish dem satanic/Always by myself, they don’t understand me” in the first verse. In the later part of the song, he bemoans being surrounded by friends who don’t mean well. As much as “Montego Bay” is a picturesque romantic ballad, it is also the musings of a man encircled by his antagonists and now celebrating triumph over enemies.

On “Montego Bay”, Naira peels back layers to his artistry and flings open the windows to his soul, shuffling between his different personalities to deliver a complex and resonant story. Hard-hitting, velvety and addictively witty, “Montego Bay” sees Naira Marley dig deep into the deepest apprehensions of the human psyche and spin them into warm reassuring melodies. The record deserves its flowers and will continue to stake out new grounds, as this sunny ballad is the sound of a world poised for a bubbly summer.

Stream ‘God’s Timing The Best’ here.

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