Seven years and four months. That’s how long it was between Davido’s debut album, ‘Omo Baba Olowo: The Genesis’, and his sophomore album, ‘A Good Time’. Contrast that duration with the eleven months and nineteen days it will take the juggernaut to follow-up with his third studio LP, ‘A Better Time’, out this Friday. Considering how long it took for a second album, not too many people would have predicted a full-length return less than a year, but 2020 has been a year to expect the unexpected, and a Davido album will undoubtedly be one of the more pleasant surprises.
Like the rest of the world, Davido was forced to slow down, following global movement restrictions to combat the rapid spread of the ongoing pandemic. In March, when the U.S. began to impose lockdown rules, the singer was in the middle of a tour supporting ‘AGT’, which was effectively cancelled as soon as it was clear that there would be no live shows for an indefinite period. The cancellation of these shows helped in redirecting all of Davido’s energy towards ‘ABT’, an album that was already in the works and was initially rumoured to be due sometime in the summer of 2020.
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I won’t keep you any longer. This year we’ve been through crazy times. Real crazy times. And through it all, we’ve all had to look inwards to find our unique hopes of better times ahead. I found a few. In human form and creative form. I’m so glad I can finally share them with you. I present to you ‘A Better Time’ out 13/11/20 00:00 WAT ! 👶🏽🎤😈 🦁 💣 Thank you @chrisbrownofficial @thuggerthugger1 @nickiminaj @shomadjozi @iammayorkun @mugeezxkamikaze @sautisol @tiwasavage @nas @bella_shmurda @lilbaby_1 @hitboy @ckay_yo for making this classic with me 🎤 ❤️
To the regular bystander, it might seem as though Davido is intent on moving on quickly from ‘AGT’, which may not have been a good omen in the past. In NATIVE‘s Issue 002 cover story, Davido told us that his 2016 EP, ‘Son of Mercy’, “shit”, which was symbolic of the uneven reception it received and the speed with which the singer’s abandoned the project for his Back to Basics phase. Unlike ‘SOM’, though, Davido’s sophomore was the culmination of his renewed reign as one of African music’s premier, perennial superstars, a run that tracks back to the “IF”, “Fall” and “FIA” string of hits in 2017.
Without a doubt, Davido delivered on his promise, crafting and delivering an album that turned out both critically and commercially acclaimed. Critically, the album was well-received upon release, and it was widely lauded for its consistently great production choices and sonic cohesion. “Davido curates a buoyant, unsinkable record, one of the genre’s (afropop) finest ever”, Sheldon Pearce wrote in his excellent review published by longstanding music publication, Pitchfork. It’s the sort of lofty praise that’s reserved for a classic album, or at least an album with the potential of being called classic in the near future.
Although I haven’t given much thought to whether or not to regard it as a classic, revisiting ‘AGT’ on multiple occasions in the near-year since it was released has only reinforced my opinion that it is Davido’s opus. The 17-song set collects everything great about Davido as a compelling performer and songwriter into a finely aggregated album, one that could only be achieved years of experience and a strong artistic vision. It doesn’t cover much ground, thematically speaking, but with the assistance of an army of enlisted writers, ‘AGT’ focuses on what Davido does best: make catchy bops.
From the controlled chaos of “Sweet in the Middle”, which oddly but successfully paired the velvet-voiced WurlD with Naira Marley and Zlatan, to the slinky groove of “Green Light Riddim”, ‘AGT’ is an outstanding portrait that captures what Davido represents at his core: a pop star. While they worked well within the album format, even the “deep cuts” on ‘AGT’ comfortably had the potential to be big singles if they got adequate promotion. Of course, being one of the biggest artists around, no Davido release would fly under the radar, but he’s fashioned himself into a savant of hit songs, and he had no shortage of them on ‘AGT’. I mean, this is an album with over a billion streams and counting.
With its reception and undeniable success—as well as the impact of Covid-19—it’s difficult to feel like Davido is doing ‘AGT’ a disservice by dropping ‘A Better Time’ less than a year later, especially when you consider that the new album is being marketed as a sequel to the sophomore. Much like its predecessor, there’s very little to project that ‘ABT’ will have any other concept except reflecting the great life Davido is currently living. Earlier this week, the singer unveiled the tracklist for the album, revealing a star-studded line-up of international guests including Nas, Young Thug, Nicki Minaj and more. It’s representative of an artist who has gone beyond living the good life he extolled on his previous body of work.
‘ABT’ also pulls in features from a continental cohort that includes Sauti Sol, Mugeez, Mayorkun and more, providing further proof that Davido has his feet firmly planted at home, even with his global-facing agenda. Above all, though, every indicator points to an album that reflects Davido’s obsession with dishing out hits. Lead single “FEM” became a protest chant during the #EndSARS protests, a song that was clearly crafted to be a silencing screed aimed at haters, generally speaking, and a scarcely veiled rival, to be more specific. Its instant ubiquity and eventual, unwitting use is testament to Davido’s ability to turn anything he sings in that gritty voice, into something memorable.
In his viral interview with Bounce Radio Live, hosted by Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, I lost count of how many times Davido quipped that he had a boatload of hits in the tuck. Usually, having a single-track mind to only make hits—hits that have afropop at their core, to be more specific—can be harmful to artists, but not Davido. While he’s known to work his singles through traditional (radio & TV) and digital channels, it barely ever seems like he’s trying to force his way into a hit. In fact, the more experimental he gets, the more he flounders. He thrives on being supremely proficient at who he is, a pop star who makes music for mass consumption.
‘A Better Time’ is bound to benefit from the innate understanding and use of Davido’s quintessential pop superstar qualities. With ‘AGT’, he figured out how to curate an album which didn’t dampen his rep as a premium singles artists. This upcoming album is set to be the second act of that showcase; he’s done it before, there’s little to prove he can’t do it again on a bigger and better level.
Pre-save ‘A Better Time’ here.
Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter