By Ayomide Tayo
Album- Once Upon A Time
Artist- Tiwa Savage
Guest Appearances- Don Jazzy, Iceberg Slim, Sarkodie, Don Jazzy, Leo Wonder, General Pype, Flavour
Producers- Marcus Macauley, Warren ‘Oak’ Felder, Gospel on the beat, Raydar Ellis, Sauce Wilson, Don Jazzy, Altims, Baby Fresh, Harmony Samuels, Spellz ‘Magik Boi’, Sossick and Del B.
Record Label- 323 Entertainment/Mavin Records (2013)
Duration- 1 hour, 18 mins
Tiwa Savage- the first lady of Mavin Records blitzed through the music scene in 2011 with two scorching hot singles ‘Kele Kele Love’ and ‘Love 3x’ making her the defacto standard female artist for pop music in Nigeria. In 2012, she joined Don Jazzy’s newly minted imprint- Mavin Records. Even with the Mavin Records compilation effort Solar Plexus not hitting the intended mark, Tiwa Savage ensured she didn’t go below the radar. ‘O Ma Ga’ and ‘Folarin’ gave her the radio spins while her love life has been well documented on blogs and websites. Cue to the videos of ‘Without My Heart’ featuring the good ol’ Don and ‘Olorun Mi’.
It is a pleasantly deceptive album because you kind of have this notion in your head that her album will be filled with Nigerian pop candies which she used to break through in the industry. However Ms. Tiwa Savage’s body of work highlights her love and bias for R and B and desire to merge it with non-traditional rhythm and blue sounds.
The LP starts with ‘Wanted’ which samples Damien Marley‘s 2006 single ‘Welcome to Jamrock’. ‘My heart is beating because they looking for me and I can hear them screaming’ starts Tiwa Savage on the song. On ‘Middle Passage’ Tiwa Savage strays from her R&B roots and pop inclination to deliver a jazzy-soul song. This is a surprising and good detour from Tiwa Savage who does her best to deliver a neo-soul song in an Angie Stone way.
‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ produced by Don Jazzy, Altims and Baby Fresh is South African House tinged with EDM. It’s a brilliant composition from the producers involved. Tiwa Savage’s voice glides on the smooth beat as she sings ‘nowhere to turn’ repeatedly. With tracks like ‘Khona’ and ‘Lengoma’ surprisingly becoming hits in Nigeria, Tiwa Savage might have her hands on a legitimate Nigerian made South African house hybrid track.
‘Shout Out’ featuring Sarkodie and Iceberg Slim is a Lagos party song that is not of the annoying ‘tungba’ variety. ‘I just want to get naughty and we go’n get real freaky tonight’ confesses Tiwa Savage on the Spellz ‘Magik Boi’ track. ‘I know you see my swag from afar/ ‘cos I am the moon in the room full of stars’ brilliantly flips M.I‘s on-and-off adversary Iceberg Slim.
Speaking of naughty, Tiwa Savage lets her freak out on the next two tracks ‘Written All over Your Face’ and ‘Get Low’. Tiwa Savage talks about the pleasures of oral stimulation when she sings ‘boy you are a mess but you look your best, baby when I am written all over your face’. On the latter track she sings ‘today I wanna switch roles/ lemme take control of you, you always put me high on a pedestal but baby I ain’t afraid to get low and please you like I have never done before….slow’. It’s undeniably R and B and highlights one of Tiwa’s best performances on the album.
Majority of the songs on Tiwa’s album are produced by foreign producers hence the strong international appeal and leaning of her album. Not wanting to alienate her Naija fans raised on radio cultivated pop music she drops a few tracks intended to stir loins and move waists. ‘Ileke’ produced by fast rising producer Gospel on the Beat is a rump shaker with groovy synths. It’s a female version of Iyanya‘s ‘Ur Waist’ complete with name calling. ‘Eminado’ featuring Don Jazzy is another Don Baba concoction. On its own, ‘Eminado’ is an undeniable single the problem is where it is placed on the album. It comes as a sharp detour on the album after Tiwa Savage has impressed you with her first 7 tracks on the LP. The change in tempo might take some getting used to but it is a good song nonetheless.
The combination of Don Jazzy and Tiwa Savage doesn’t work on ‘Oh Yeah’. Don Jazzy’s electro voice is gratingly off on this cut. On the contemporary highlife tip, Tiwa scores a huge one with ‘Baby Mo’ produced by Del B which features Flavour. The conscious ‘Stand As One’ featuring General Pype skids off the runway- not impressive.
The strength of Tiwa Savage’s album is in her songwriting skill (She’s famously penned songs for Brandy and Fantasia) and the line-up of international producers who bring depth and range to the production on this album. Tiwa Savage might not have Waje’s strong voice or Omawumi’s infectious personality on songs but her pen skills backed by expansive rich production makes her a queen in her own right. And this queen has weaved a wonderful fairy tale with a happy ending.