Deep Cuts: Davido balances charisma & vulnerability on “Green Light Riddim”

Off the popstar's 4-year old sophomore album, 'A Good Time'

Time flies when you’re having fun. It took Davido seven-plus years to release the full-length successor to ‘Omo Baba Olowo: The Genesis’, his debut album from 2012. For the most part, he was dominating the airwaves with huge single after huge single, becoming the quintessential Nigerian pop superstar and arguably the most reliable hit-maker of his generation. In simple terms, Davido was having fun—for the most part.

The path to global superstardom, via realigning back into authenticity, is now Afropop lore. An EP that he panned as “shit,” the comeback single that shot him back the summit, its follow-up that greatly helped the stateside incursion of Nigerian pop, and a run of hit songs that culminated in one of the most dominant years we’ve ever witnessed from a popstar. More successful singles poured in and, after a long—really long—build-up, came ‘A Good Time’, the sophomore album that was then-overdue and now clocks four post-release years.

In the moment of its release, ‘A Good Time’ both benefitted from and was hampered by its many, many months of accumulated anticipation. The inclusion of several singles that dated back a couple of years ensured its core was familiar, perhaps a little too familiar. Listening back now, ‘AGT’ has aged finely, testament to the vision Davido baked into the album, rooting his musical choices in home-grown sounds while facing the rest of the world. On the album’s seventeen songs, he’s self-aware, deeply grateful, effusively in love and ultra-confident.

Tucked in the album’s lower-middle part is “Green Light Riddim,” a dancehall-influenced slapper that leverages Davido’s charisma and veritable lover-boy charm into one of the singer’s finest romance-themed songs—which is saying a lot, considering the catalogue. Over the years, Davido had already established himself as a premier creator of showy love songs centred on dedication. Because of his larger-than-life persona, the gambits had to be grand, from the dramatic overtures of “Aye” to the ostentatious promises of “IF” and “Fall” to the overt sentimentality of “Assurance.” By contrast, “Green Light Riddim” is a far simpler fare, which is what makes it stand out.

The execution is exquisite, a balanced mix of reputation-based conceit and vulnerability. After opening the song by brushing off negative chatter and establishing self-pride, Davido settles into confessional mode. “You know I’ve been falling for you…And I know deep down I wanna be with you,” he declares on the second verse, without any theatrics. When his voice reaches for something extra, it’s in service of the song’s central plea: “All I need is your green light.”

Usually, there’s an overwhelming conviction that Davido’s wooing tactics always work to his desired results. “Green Light Riddim” doesn’t upend that M.O, but there’s an innate nod to the fact that wholesome relationships thrive on a two-way commitment. Enthusiasm from the addressed party bodes well for the future. Within the context of ‘A Good Time’, the Shaydee co-written song shows that Davido can thrive even when pomp is not required of him, and that’s part of what makes the late 2019 project a great starting point to the trio of Time-based albums he’s dropped in the last four years. Each LP has had songs that are glue moments, i.e. not proper hits but worthwhile listen on full re-listens. The overall enjoyability of these songs have elevated the perception of Davido as a mainly singles artists. Yes, he’s still a monster hit-maker, but his albums are worth their runtime—and it started with ‘AGT’.

“Green Light Riddim” is one of the several deep cuts—including “Get to You” and “Company”—that shows how the overall cohesiveness of ‘AGT’ doesn’t blur the individual stakes and quality of its lesser heralded songs. It also shows the level Davido has been operating on, where glue cuts turn into effortless highlights.