Essentials: Kizz Daniel remains as reliable as ever on new EP, ‘Barnabas’
Playing around with the same familiar formula
Playing around with the same familiar formula
Mere days after Kizz Daniel released his new EP, ‘Barnabas’, there was some chatter online as to why the singer’s recent project releases were not greeted by the loud bells and whistles that often accompany similar drops by Nigerian pop stars. There’s probably some merit to this claim; you’d be forgiven for not remembering—or maybe even knowing—that Kizz Daniel dropped his third LP, ‘King of Love’ amidst last year’s lockdown, and now, with the release of his new EP, history seemed destined to repeat itself.
The whole truth to this puzzling reaction rests on the premise that many may not consider Kizz Daniel to be the most magnetic superstar around but he’s certainly as bankable as top tier Nigerian pop stars come. You’d struggle to find any Stan hives dedicated to the singer, but that doesn’t mean his music is struggling for attention, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. His latest smash hit “Lie,” has racked up its fair share of accolades on the TurnTable Top 50.
Produced by frequent collaborator Philkeyz, “Lie” builds on familiar Kizz Daniel traits, including a lustrous but overly unshowy beat that compliments the breezy tenor of his voice, alluring ad-lib harmonies, and the song’s cheesy lyrics (“Girl, I don’t really care about your body type/what really matter na your vibe/I be the one for you”). Best of all, it sounds effortless, like he composed and rehearsed the song in his head while doing some mundane activity, before laying the main track and backing parts down in one take each. It also embellishes the idea that if there’s an avatar for standard Nigerian pop music, an artist such as Kizz Daniel fits the bill.
Over the last few years, Nigerian pop music has widened in scope and is arguably at its most diversified. In the same timeframe, though, the mid-tempo stylings popularised in the mid-2010s has sat firmly at the centre of Nigerian pop. Earning mainstream visibility at the top of that period, with a slew of hit songs and a widely beloved debut album, Kizz Daniel represents a bridge between the high octane sound of Nigerian pop in the late 2000s/early ‘10s and its mid-tempo succession. It’s a role he’s committed to playing, as he meticulously colours around familiar musical boundaries without sounding stale.
In Afropop, familiarity is not the most enticing gambit, but it can be refreshing to hear an artist confidently operate in their comfort zone to solid results. Nearly everything Kizz Daniel offers on ‘Barnabas’ has a predecessor or precursor in his catalogue. The lovelorn opener, “Pour Me Water,” is thankfully not as crass as the viral “Fvck You,” choosing instead to offer a vulnerable perspective into dealing with an unfaithful romantic partner. “Addict,” while not as empathetic a song as 2018’s “Tobi,” offers truth-telling without proselytising. The project’s pseudo-title track is slightly less blatant than 2019’s “Jaho,” but the verve in Kizz Daniel’s prayers for prosperity remains intact.
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The Kizz Daniel formula hinges a lot on relatability, finding new and inventive ways to broach the same universal topics. He seems content with putting mundane realities into song, a detail that informs many of his biggest hits making them relatable to the wider Nigerian audience. It should sound familiar and monotonous, but it’s not. On “Oshe,” which features backing vocals from revivalist Highlife-fusion duo the Cavemen, Kizz Daniel shows why he’s an excellent troubadour, pulling off a blue-eyed romantic standout over a Folk-pop beat.
Alongside a host of talented producers including Philkeyz, Blaise Beats and Reward Beatz, the project is kept afloat with a supply colourful and consistent production, brimming with groovy percussion patterns, gleaming piano chords, some plucky guitar riffs, and the occasional horns. This EP is probably the only project from a Nigerian pop act with zero log drums or Amapiano flirtations, perhaps a perfect encapsulation of Kizz Daniel’s peculiar place in Nigerian pop music, where he’s right at the centre but not too bothered about adapting fairly new, dominating trends.
Also interesting is the fact that Kizz Daniel has already announced the release of a fourth album tentatively titled ‘Afro Classic’. With its imminent arrival underway and his new EP’s recent release, it’s clear that he’s one of the most prolific workers around and one with a foolproof formula that is yet to fail him. His desire to stay under the radar is offset by his list of hit singles and his sizeable ambitions which continue to earn him the admiration and support of his loyal audience. Kizz Daniel knows the groove he prefers, and he remains as reliable as ever.
Listen to ‘Barnabas’ here.