Review: Adekunle Gold’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’

Adekunle Gold is standing firm in his convictions, extremely secure of who he is as an artist and a person.

In the summer of 2018, aka the summer of “YE,” “In My Feelings” and an embarrassing deadbeat father reveal, Adekunle Gold delivered arguably the most confounding moment of his career. Almost a year out from his sophomore LP, ‘About 30’, AG shared a cover of Drake’s “Emotionless,” spitting a verse that mostly centred around his decision to try something as left-field as rapping. Between his hackneyed cadence and imperfect timing over the soul-sampling beat, it was hard to reconcile what one was hearing with the artist we had come to know over the years. It’s a very minor scandal, but it’s quite symbolic for that period of the singer’s intriguing career timeline.

After earning widespread adulation with the genial folk and excellent musicianship of his debut album, ‘Gold’, Adekunle Gold marked his third decade around the sun with an LP that was eager for radicalness. There he was, mourning the aftereffects of fame, angrily hosing down an unfaithful partner, throwing insulting screeds at a well-known online scammer, while expanding his sonic purview, from the Juju and Yoruba folk-inspired canvas of his debut, to include EDM, Igbo Folk, Afrobeat, and Gospel. This was Adekunle Gold rebelling against the image he had created, a wide-eyed writer who initially christened his sound Urban Highlife; now, he was more combative and disavowed the very notion of genre—up to the point of an ill-advised try at rapping.

In the opening moments of AG’s fourth album, Catch Me If You Can’, he references that pivotal turn into age 30 that catalysed that small musical identity crisis and, most importantly, offered a self-aware criticism: he was living for everyone but himself.

Five years later, it’s impossible not to deem Adekunle Gold as a man that moves to the beat of his own drum—even if you’re sceptical, the clamour around his evolution is enough evidence. “Born Again,” the song that opens this recent 14-song set, feels like a spiritual successor of the eponymous opener from his debut.

Where “Gold” set an eager tone as an acapella introduction, this new opener is an impressive turn in self-assured portraiture, as each descriptive line about his life—“I know that I count on me, and I’m blessed with Adejare”—is sung with impenetrable poise. The chopped up interpolation of Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara’s modern classic, “Nterini,” is slightly unnecessary as a flex but it isn’t soulless within the song’s purpose. With the interaction between both intros, and the electro-folk bent of “Born Again,” which isn’t too far from Gold’s musical wheelhouse, Catch Me If You Can’ is the closest thing yet to a full circle moment with AG’s debut.

Artistic evolution is prominently discussed within the context of artists discarding their past selves in favour of creating music that they deem to be more fulfilling. A lot of the time, though, it’s just improvements and adjustments being made until the artist reaches a seemingly better situation. Adekunle Gold is an easy example as a former folk-pop hero turned pop powerhouse. Artists evolve for several reasons, but the most cited and perhaps most intriguing is the realisation that the imagined perks of breaking out don’t always match the reality. That was the crux of AG’s commendably experimental but uneven sophomore LP, and what followed was a grip of sleek pop singles, signalling a recalibration of objectives.


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By 2020’s ‘Afro Pop, Vol. 1’, the renovation was complete. At six songs shorter than both preceding albums, AG’s third full-length is decidedly more eclectic, leaning into the global trend of pop music being an amalgamation of different influences into a glossy whole. Even Afropop, the genre its title references, is an expansive soundscape that factors in both local and imported influences. Beneath all of this stylistic tinkering, you would be hard-pressed to claim Adekunle Gold had changed his thematic interests. While his writing angles have widened beyond blue-eyed romance and aspirational quips, his current reflection reads as a man who has a better understanding of worldly complexity, but his music still revolves these familiar themes.

The same can be said for Catch Me If You Can. Like each of its predecessors, though, the general candour keeps things from being recycled. Gold’ had manifested dreams as its compass, About 30′ was an exercise in re-interrogation, and Afro Pop, Vol. 1′ showed confidence. With his fourth, Adekunle Gold is standing firm in his convictions, extremely secure of who he is as an artist and a person. Throughout this album, AG sings with the sure-footedness of someone that doesn’t have much to prove, to listeners or to himself. It’s the next logical chapter, and it also makes sense that it’s a refined culmination of everything that came before.

Musically, the new album is an intersection between the rustic influences of early AG, and the contemporary flair of Nigerian pop music. It’s timely, considering how older forms of Nigerian music has become an inseparable part of the current pop landscape, a tenet Adekunle Gold was championing six-plus years ago. A significant portion of Catch Me If You Can’, especially its opening third, is defined by the rhythmic melding of local percussion and indelible bass guitar riffs, not unlike the musical direction from his past work.

On early highlight, “Mase Mi,” frequent collaborator Blaise Beat combines a gurgling bass guitar line with robust drum, forming a lively counterpart to AG’s soulful rebuke of the devil. The TMXO-produced “Win” is driven by bubbling talking drums couched inside a rumbling bass, bringing emphasis to the singer’s declarative tone. The heart of this album is in the opening line of the song: “In my lifetime, people I fit die for dem be like two.”

Pop stars living and extolling the domestic life aren’t generally regarded to be alluring or riveting. In society, being married with kids is beige, making it difficult for it to be portrayed in music as exciting. To his credit, Adekunle Gold makes monogamy sound pretty swell on Catch Me If You Can’. While his daughter gets a significant mention on the intro, it’s plausible to claim that the main inspiration here is his wife, the multi-talented singer Simi. Through this lens, the moments of hubris are given emotional gravitas, because his self-conviction is backed by the knowledge that there’s unconditional love flowing towards him from those in his corner. It’s a widely regurgitated claim, but there has to be some truth in your chosen family fuelling you to become a better person.

The overwhelming majority of the romance-themed songs on this album revolve around devotion, a relatable theme that’s made more meaningful by the singer’s own life. The ultra-groovy deep cut, “More Than Enough,” celebrates a long-term relationship with both parties sticking with each other through their early career days and into a financially abundant present. On the pre-released single, “Sinner,” which remains a delightful highlight here and features a sublime Lucky Daye verse, Simi famously played the role of the magnetic muse in the accompanying video. In a remarkable accomplishment, Adekunle Gold gets an ever-ready Lothario, the American R&B superstar Ty Dolla $ign to champion being a “one woman man.”

What these sort of songs lack in range or tension, they make up for in wonderful execution. They only misstep is the Tay Iwar-produced “Sleep,” an Afropop-inflected R&B tune that doesn’t flatter AG’s attempts at sex-crazed moxie and falsetto delivery. Over the course of his discography, it’s clear Adekunle Gold shines brightest when he’s accompanied by full-bodied arrangements, complementing the folksy beauty embedded in his voice. On “Dior, Dior, Dior,” the track opens up with guitars that plays into the acoustic pop-soul of featured artist Foushee, but a recognisable percussion groove lands and AG sounds right at home while accommodating his guest.

It’s arguable that the best feature on Catch Me If You Can’ belongs to Davido’s energetic appearance on runaway smash, “High,” not just for its sheer value, but also in how it underlines AG’s honed capacity as a pop songwriter and performer. (“Love is not enough/baby, come to me, mo l’owo” is every bit as scintillating as “wake up and jumpstart/I go chop you like oha.”) Also, the tribal house-meets-amapiano banger is a phenomenal touch of versatility on an album that gleefully basks in fulfilment—but fulfilment doesn’t always equal constant satisfaction.

The thing is, taken together with the rest of his catalogue, Catch Me If You Can’ is a resolution point in the linear narrative of Adekunle Gold’s career. With every resolution, there has to be a new beginning—or at least a continuation—which begs the question of where the singer goes next. That answer will come in the future, but here, that trudge to optimal self-assurance is beyond remarkable.