Tiwa Savage, Mayorkun, Dremo, CKay, Nas, Bella Shmurda, Chris Brown and more feature on the album.
In the final quarter of 2019, Nigerian superstar, Davido released his sophomore album, ‘A Good Time.’ It was conceptualized as a soundtrack to something merry and parts of it achieved that. While it was definitely an improvement on the unimpressive ‘Son of Mercy EP,’ it was still not an exceptional body of work.
It had some great moments, some very ‘mid’ moments and some very underwhelming moments. But interestingly, none of the songs was an actual throwaway. The problem was that Davido – as great an A&R as he is – just couldn’t weave them together into a cohesive unit, with an identity aided by segues and enviable transcendence.
When he announced his third album, A Better Time so hot on the heels of his sophomore, many thought it was a bid to right the wrongs of A Good Time.
In Hip-Hop, the consensus is that when an artist releases a Re-Up or a new album so hot on the heels of another album, it is usually because the former album is so good that the artist feels super-inspired to keep going or because the former album is so bad that a notion needs to be undone.
On November 13, 2020, the superstar released A Better Time. The album contains 17 tracks and features 12 other artists. The art is a celebration of his son, Ifeanyi’s identity – cute awwwnn. With the birth of his son, a need to release an album with a more centred creative process and a need to showcase growth, Davido wanted the album to reflect improvement – better.
Sadly, this album is anything but. The interesting thing is that Davido’s maturity shows in the beat selection and the risks he takes on certain songs. It’s also interesting that Davido is reputed to be a great A&R, who is rooted in his multifaceted love for music. But at the fourth attempt, Davido is still unable to produce an album of genuine compelling quality.
Marketing is a different argument entirely. As average as ‘Something Fishy’ is, it has all the markings of a Davido hit. It has a resonant line and an acceptable beat. But the song is so cliche that parts of it sounds like DMW’s erstwhile hit, ‘Mind.’
Davido’s marketing strategy, as aided by the smarts of Asa Asika and his star power will paper the cracks with great numbers and hits, but genuine album quality is something that he is still yet to produce.
‘A Better Time’ feels like a selection of hurriedly crafted and selected songs that were then lumped into one body of work. While the album has some strong songs like ‘Heaven’ and ‘Shopping Spree,’ the problem is that there is no dynamic nexus to tie the album together.
It feels like whenever Davido is crafting albums, he doesn’t detach himself from the mindset of crafting hit singles. While both processes are seemingly premised upon crafting great music, they are not the same. One requires a methodical approach while the other is simply about crafting resonance and shock value.
It feels like Davido crafts album songs with the mindset of crafting quality songs that could become singles. You can create an album that can soundtrack a party, but you shouldn’t create it like you want to create an album to soundtrack a party.
On ‘A Better Time,’ there is simply too much going on. The height of it is creating a song with Nas and Hitboy. We should not dictate to artists and creatives, maybe. But why in the world did Davido create a song with Nas and Hitboy? For what? To what end? What was it meant to achieve?
Why is Davido creating a song with Nicki Minaj? Fam, Sauti Sol has become a walking representation of the Nigerian bid for pan-African representation. Bro, like just no.
At 17 tracks, that’s just too much. The longer an album drags, the more apparent its flaws and the flaws of its creator become.
If you’re Davido and you are at a point where you need a quality album, you should have simply not let it drag on. You should make it concise and simple.
In a way, it also feels like Davido’s ‘go-getter’ persona is at loggerheads with his music lover persona. On this album, one can see that Davido is a total music lover. It feels like he is trying to recreate the things he has heard and loved with terminological exactitude and maybe that’s the problem.
It gets to a point where a listener might be forced to ask, ‘Okay, what is the crux of this album?’ Bella Shmurda holds his head high and so do CKay and Mugeez. But Lil Baby and Nicki Minaj sound even worse as part of an album experience. And for the love of God, it’s time for Davido and Peruzzi to step away from Speroach.
‘Jowo’ and ‘Mebe‘ are two of the better songs on this album, but it’s hard to look past how cliche the production is.
This is not about a safe option – that would connote recognition of the problem by Davido. This is a decision born out of subconscious creative comfort. This is the same problem with ‘Holy Ground,’ albeit being a step below ‘Jowo.’ Like, leave that sound alone. Drop it!
‘A Better Time’ feels like ‘A Good Time’ with ‘Son of Mercy’ problems. It’s not like there is one song that is inherently bad, but a lot of the songs on ‘A Better Time’ are fundamentally flawed either by delivery, the event of album sequencing – which impacts the enjoyment of music more than almost anything, incomplete production or cliche Nigerian Afro-pop songwriting.
A core example of this is ‘Sunlight’ – all the potential in the world, but lacks that element of perfect finality.
See you at the review…