Essentials: Davido Treads Familiar Waters on New Album Timeless
He’s a master chef who has stuck to the same recipe and the same utensils, he’s just hired new chefs here.
●6th April 2023
How do you steady the ship when its rocking? How do you sail through a tempest? How do you manage to breathe, even when it appears life is attempting a belligerent waterboarding? How do you get back up when you’ve been knocked down? For many, the answers are divergent; we push through hard times and draw strength from various sources: art, family, friends, e.t.c, but for Davido, the ebullient pop star who went through a dismal period at the tail-end of last year — due to the loss of his son, Ifeanyi — he seems to draw strength from the familiar.
If you happen to be fairly superstitious, you would imagine that Davido had a premonition that prompted “Stand Strong”, the gospel-inspired single that was touted to usher in a new era for the 30-year-old. “ I stand strong, O.B.O no go minus, O.B.O elemi nine plus, Big fish flow like the ocean, ooh Omo / I stand strong, 30BG dey my backup, O.B.O elemi nine plus ” he sang passionately on the hook, almost like a personal reaffirmation and also a fortification for the pressure or doom ahead; but then again, OBO is no stranger to these things. From the inception of his decorated career, he’s carried a tiny chip on his shoulder, one that was watered by the industry’s outlook on him: daddy’s boy throwing around daddy’s money. So he’s spent over a decade turning many initial — and even constant — skeptics to believers; taking up space at the summit of the country’s musical echelon by sheer determination, talent and an impressive ability to constantly keep up with the times. He’s also had to endure the loss of close companions like DJ Olu, Hakeem Uthman aka Obama DMW, Tagbo, and Fortune, his one-time photographer; grieving under the microscopic eye of the public.
Impressively, Davido has taken all in his stride, while still firmly undeneath the spotlight: the pressure, the losses and even the constant skeptics. But when news broke that Ifeanyi, his three year old boy, had passed, there was a sense the singer had finally reached his breaking point. So for the first time, Davido stepped away from the spotlight, tending to himself and those around him; he took a social media break — only reporting notable events like his World cup performance at the humongous Lusail stadium in Qatar — and halted all promotional activities or collaboration for months. He finally re-emerged in March, with the announcement of his fourth studio album Timeless, his first in almost three years. The announcement was, of course, met with feverish excitement not just because of the promise of new music but also because the ever cheerful singer was back, primarily, with a smile on his face, doing what he does best.
A little surprisingly, Timeless houses exactly the kind of music Davido has been known to make. He’s a masterchef who has stuck to the same recipe and the same utensils, he’s just hired new chefs here. The triumphant opener “OVER DEM” is primarily buoyed by a scriptural anecdote that also works as a clever double entendre; the sentiments, however, fail to stick due to the tepid and over familiar production. The ensuing four track run is thankfully a joyride — perhaps the albums best sequencing — before we hit pretty bumpy roads: “FEEL” is lustrous and dance-inducing, thanks largely to Blaisebeatz; “IN THE GARDEN” is mostly a statement of intent from his protégé Morravey; he’s at his braggadocious best on “GODFATHER” while “UNAVAILABLE” is one of the album’s clearly sculpted attempt at a hit song. Of course Magicsticks, the country’s most sought after producer, is on production duty here; Davido once again employing the tried and tested call-and-response formula over drum patterns that we’re becoming increasingly familiar with.
The bumpy roads begin to rear its head on cuts like “E PAIN ME”. Yeah, Davido, it pain me too. A cursory glance at the tracklist and many assumed that this was, perhaps, going to be one of the more vulnerable moments on the album; a more personal side of himself many hoped he’ll show on this record as a whole. But this is none of that, it’s unfortunately a grating, dated record that should have been left on the cutting room floor. “PRECISION” is also not precise in its messaging or its intent; it sounds like another dated record that’s been simply added as fodder to bulk up the album. Things begin to pick up again on “KANTE” where the pop titan’s husky vocals works in tandem with Fave’s honeyed tenor for a standout duet. Logos Olori, another one of Davido’s latest signees, impresses on “PICASSO”, melodiously weaving through BigRagee’s slow drums while Skepta’s microwaved verse doesn’t do much to elevate “JUJU”.
Resolute, Davido’s messaging has remained consistent since his breakthrough several years ago: you can’t stop me. Even though with “Dami Duro”, his first hit single, he presented his stance as more of a request or even a plea, he clearly couldn’t be bothered with any of the responses or obstacles. And these responses and these obstacles have come over the years, abound, but he’s weathered the storm, hell, he’s even moonwalked on it. But when his son passed last year, he looked like he had, for however brief, stepped into a chasm that threatened to consume him whole; he’d used up the nine lives he boasted of on “Stand Strong”. But on Timeless’ penultimate track “LCND”, arguably the album’s most moving moment, he reaffirms, over cinematic production, the stance he’s held from the onset: “ I told you from the start / Legends can never die” . And I guess that’s the superior narrative here; not the minutiae of Timeless or the intricacies, but the return of a man who’d been tried by fire and is still here, standing strong, just like he told us he’ll be.
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