Track By Track: Asa breaks down her new album, ‘V’
Weaving tales of love, destruction, politics,
Weaving tales of love, destruction, politics,
Today, after months of teasing the release of her fifth studio album with awe-inspiring singles such as “Mayana” and “Ocean,” Asa’s ‘V’ is finally here. Together, Asa’s first four albums are a tour de force, exceedingly brilliant pieces in a magnetic whole.
Before the release of her self-titled debut album in 2007, Asa was little known in Nigeria. In the months to come, not only did Asa emerge among the year’s breakout stars, the strength of her album elevated her immediately into the pantheon of modern African pop greats. The journey since then has been quite well documented.
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Weaving tales of love, destruction, politics, money and everything in-between, Asa’s songs have the ability to provoke many emotions in their minimal run time. Her sound transverses forms and eras, dipping twinkly toes in genres such as R&B and Jazz, but with a textured feeling for spectacular music elsewhere, especially Yoruba folk. These qualities have elevated Asa into the rare pristine artist, a vessel through which diverse motivations can emerge into a powerful, singular presentation.
“Mayana” was her only song throughout 2021 and the Priime production hinted at a growing flair for sunny pop grooves. Lighthearted expressions, sparse songwriting and minimal production: all these were present, then and on “Ocean,” released only last weekend. ‘V’ is simply the fifth. There’s no underlying motivation behind the title other than Asa is who she is, and needs no introduction. Some days back, The NATIVE spoke to her over a Zoom call, and she broke down every song on ‘V’, how they came about and what they mean.
One afternoon, Priime and I were working with a blank slate, and I guess the first words that came out of my mouth was “nothing but I’ll love, nothing but I’ll love” and after that I went and wrote the song the next day. But the first thing were those words. Because it’s such a dreamy love song and it just puts you in a place and for me, that place is an island. And automatically, I felt it was going to be a love song cos the music inspired the story behind it.
This is also a love song, but it’s also about coming to one’s self, knowing oneself, knowing one’s self and not being afraid to express it. As a love song, I’m telling the other person, “Listen, you don’t lose; you can’t lose, I’m already for you, you have nothing to fear.” It’s about trust. “Ocean” goes beyond love between partners, it goes as far as love between friends. Anyone could be your ocean. And again, it’s the music. This thing about feeling the ocean; maybe it’s because I live in front of water, I don’t know. ‘Cos I was clearly writing the song there as well and I worked with WurlD on this song.
With Wizkid, you know we had met earlier–we met in Ghana already, we had drinks and just connected for the first time. I don’t think the song was born then. So I wrote the song, I thought ‘Listen, Wizkid would do great on this.’ I’ve always loved Wizkid’s melodies and always loved him as a very creative person. I sent to him, he loved it and did it. With Wizkid, as with other people that I worked with on this record, one thing that shines through—the album is just about vibes, good feeling, good times, friendship and love.
“Nike” is about someone who’s shown you the world, shown you about another side of love you’ve never experienced and suddenly the relationship’s no longer happening, it’s done. In the song, I’m singing of this lost love and there’s a little bit of pain and a little bit of wanting to have revenge or something. Again, it’s very minimalistic music and that’s just [displaying versatility] and restraining, not wanting to put too much in the song so that the vocals and storyline could shine through.
This is just a story of “Yes, the relationship is here. This is the person I want to be with. Show me off; don’t be shy. Tell your friends, tell the world.” “Show Me Off”, like all the songs on the album, it again goes back to friendship. It’s about not being afraid to openly express because this is what it would be forever.
“Morning Man” is what it is. He’s an imaginary person but I hope that when I sing the songs, and you’re listening, you’ll find yourself in it. And “Morning Man” is just an easygoing morning song, when you wake up and quite lazy to get out of bed. There’s something rhumba, African, Island-ish about this. It’s a song you just hear and when you hear the sea in the background, everything is good and perfect.
The thing with ‘V’ is that there’s a song for everybody; you pick the one that you love. The Cavemen are special to me, they are great guys, they are people who I love dearly. They inspire me. And you know, with me and Benjamin–I’m sure you’ve seen us on social media–we’re never up to no good, we’re always goofing around. “Good Times” is about friendship, it’s just about saying what sometimes you forget to say, just acknowledging friendship we see everyday and it’s become a background to our lives. Sometimes, stop and tell this person thank you, you’re a good friend.
And with The Cavemen, it reminds me of my roots, my beginning with the Asa (Asha) album, going back to that acoustic feel and there’s something about it that takes me to Paul Simon and the Ladysmith Mambazo–there’s this nostalgia about that song. Something about takes me back to childhood, those good times. I remember we were in the studio, we were just gathering around, one mic, singing this song. And it’s so good we finally have it, ready for you guys to listen to what we’ve been working on.
Again, it’s just reaffirming that I’m loyal, I’m here for the long run. I know what I want, I know what I’m doing so don’t worry. Relax. Trust me. I’m here, I’m a believer. If you link that to “Ocean” as well, that coming to oneself and telling your lover, whoever it is, “I know my self.”
Originally, I wrote the song with Amaarae in mind. I wanted to give it to her. A friend came over to the house to have dinner and he put the phone to me, and Amaarae was online. That was our first connection. I’ve been listening to her songs and I thought she’s amazing, she’s in her own lane, she’s different. And this is what I do when I want to get out of the usual Asa; I’ll think of another artist and write for them. She listened to the song, she loved it and said “Why don’t we do it do it together?” And that’s how my voice got to stay on “All I Ever Wanted.” It’s actually one of my favourites on the album.
It’s a sarcastic song; Asa is always sarcastic. You can hear it in “Awe” and “Bimpé,” you know, I kind of brought a bit of that sarcasm into this song. It’s just telling the person, “Have you forgotten how we were?”
This song is me telling a lover, “Say what it is. If we’re not doing this, don’t just up and go.” I think “Love Me Or Give Me Red Wine” talks about emptiness, a void, the shock of not knowing when this person might go and not telling me why. Again, there’s sarcasm in this, a lot of playing around. This is what I like to do: I’ll say something serious and also be unserious about it.
Stream ‘V’ below.
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