One of his genre’s finest acts hopes to finally represent Africa in the mainstream, but is Wizkid the wunderkind so many have hyped him to be?
At twenty-seven, Wizkid, born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, has experienced a lot of artistic success. Often affiliated with the ‘afrobeats’ genre, his notoriety grew once single “Ojuelegba“ broke past the scene’s national audience. While he has received recognition from the likes of Drake, Wale, and Chris Brown, these co-signs have had a marginal effect on Wizkid’s commercial presence as a solo artist. With that in mind, Songs From The Other Side comes with a clear goal: elevating his career to a whole new level.
Right off the bat, Wizkid does his best to appeal to both an international audience and his core fanbase. Sadly, he ends up let down by his former benefactor on “Come Closer,” as Drizzy phones it in fairly significantly, despite success in previous singles of this ilk. On that note, the album's first half continues the formula of utilizing high-end collaborators such as EDM mainstay Major Lazer or Chris Brown to angle for party jams. However, while Major Lazer’s take on Wizkid’s sound for “Naughty Ride” is tasteful and refuses to skirt too heavily into any sort of festival music drivel, an aggravating synth line and an infinitely more obnoxious use of a fake accent by Chris Brown makes “African Bad Gyal” feel downright embarrassing.
The clunky call & response hook and generic reggaeton-esque beat on “Daddy Yo” make you wonder if branching out from his wheelhouse was not Wizkid’s best idea. However, his perfect collaborator emerges in the raspy-voiced muso Ty Dolla $ign. “One For Me” sounds perhaps a little too demure to be a “One Dance” level blockbuster, but it manages to take everything that Wizkid does well and expand it to a stadium sound. The trend continues on the DJ Mustard produced “Dirty Wine." Ty’s presence somehow transplants Wizkid into the RnBass sounds of 2014 in a way that, for a moment, showcases the Nigerian singer’s superstar potential.
After a faltering first half, Sounds From The Other Side eventually finds a groove, managing to stylistically experiment while avoiding blatant hit-chasing. The R&B tropicalia of “Picture Perfect” marks a proper ‘solo’ showcase for Wizkid, before eventually cresting down into the gloomy drift of “Nobody.” It’s both a testimony to Wizkid’s variability and his engaging qualities as a vocalist. While the majority of the album is definitely characterized by autotune use, his sense of harmony and breezy, danceable vibe are some of Wizkid’s strongest assets.
The album manages to stand on its own merits, thwarted by the misguided nobility of a hit-seeking agenda. Despite some early inconsistency, which largely stems from trying too hard to find said hit, Wizkid never sounds entirely out of place. The moments of potential hint at something beyond a shining Starboy of the afrobeats scene - an international star the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time. Will Sounds From The Other Side succeed in gaining Wizkid the new audience that he may very well deserve? As for that, the jury is still out.