There are many layers inside Aramide’s 'Suitcase', once you manage to open it up.
It is hard enough being a musician of any genre in Nigeria, but when you now decide to do something so radically different, you are only making things difficult for yourself.
But going against the grain is sometimes the only way to stand out and be noticed. Why would anyone give you a second look when you are already late to the game and you are just aping those who have gone before.
Which is why what Aramide is trying to do with her debut album, Suitcase, is really brave. The 15-track album, which features collaborations with Ice Prince, Adekunle Gold, Sound Sultan, Sir Dauda and Koker, represents a true R&B album, the likes which has not been seen in the Nigerian music since, maybe, Darey Art-Alade’s unDAREYted in 2009 or Banky W’s R&BW in 2013.
There are many layers inside Aramide’s Suitcase, once you manage to open it up. On first listen, you are assaulted by her clear and distinct vocals. But later it is the creditable songwriting around several themes that grips you. Then you find yourself swaying your hips to songs you probably shouldn’t be swaying hips to.
The album opens with the brief and plaintive ‘Eledumare’, a prayerful appeal to a supernatural being to explain why no one knows what will happen, why things don’t go according to plan.
This religious theme is not continued throughout the album though. Like a true R&B album, this album is about missed connections and unrequited love finding love in foreign places.
Even though the last track, ‘Devil At My Doorstep’, bookends the religious theme for the entire album nicely. The track is surprisingly uptempo, for a song that is all about wishing the devil away.
‘Why So Serious’ has Aramide back to the unrequited love theme, a story of love interest who wants more than the brief fling as heard in the lyrics:
300 missed calls
on top one night stand….
Although we had a blast together
Wasn’t meant to last forever
We both know
It’s not that deep
On ‘Feeling The Feeling’, however, it is Aramide who is doing the feeling and doesn’t want to wait any longer, while the night is so longer. (The preceding sentence is basically a remix of the words in the chorus; her songwriting is pretty good, there is not a reason to change much).
This same can also be found in ‘Sweet Connection’, but this time it is about a missed sweet connection.
‘Bose’ sings about a gossiping female in the tradition of the local village gossip; the song even has an infectious call and response chant. But this gossip has stepped up her game; instead of just delighting the locals with her gossip, she now shares it with the online media.
Full disclosure, Aramide namechecks Thenetng as one of the media outlets Bose would run to.
It is in ‘Stranger in Rome’, that Aramide explores the concept of forbidden love, falling in love in a strange land.
With ‘Yemi My Lover’, she borrows the title from the classic Yoruba movie of the ’90s, to describe a lover that loves one in the morning and then in the evening.
‘Tell Me’ features rapper Ice Prince, who lends a creditable hand in serenading the one that there is no need to look any further.
For all of the good songs on the album, it feels just like that; a smattering of good songs probably recorded over time without trying to tell one single story.
This is why albums are important; in literary terms, albums are like hardback novels, telling one coherent story over a number of chapters (or songs in this case). A chance to form a complete narrative, your narrative and share it with the world.
This is where this album falls short. It might have more than a few good songs but it is lacking in that central narrative. But not like that should stop you from enjoying the songs on the album.
A word must be repeated for how brave Aramide is by sticking to the R&B genre, particularly in an environment where pop reigns supreme. That bravery may not have birthed a classic album but Aramide has a good album in her box.
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