Fireboy abandons the LTG formula for an Ultramodern experience to impressive results.
Fireboy DML is a simple guy. His lyrics are sharp and witted. Nothing about him confounds you. He sounds just like that boy in your neighborhood who can sing. He’s the type of guy who’d say something as ridiculous as “I came suddenly, I be like Nepa bill”, throw in a street slang and conjure up a naughty pidgin idiom and still sound profound. Like an Agbero with the voice and range of John Legend. It’s some legendary stuff.
That’s why we love him. That’s what catapulted the 24-year-old to super stardom after the release of his debut album, Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps, LTG, less than a year ago. That’s why fans and industry watchers have been expectant of his second coming.
And 9 months after LTG, the contentious lead single, New York City Girl, dropped. Some die hard fans love it all the way – others think it’s below the bar Fireboy set with Jealous, and the LTG album. Me, I just thought it was too early for another album.
But to appreciate that song, you have to listen to Apollo because it’s an entire album of New York City Girls.
One thing I’ve learned from James Gunn, the famed director of Guardians of the Galaxy, and Eric Kripke, the showrunner of Amazon’s The Boys, is that a sequel is not about being ‘better than the first one’ (because once it’s bigger and better, it only makes the next one harder). A sequel is about growth. It’s about how deep. It’s about exploring weaknesses and mixing strengths. It’s about baring yourself. And, Omo, Fireboy don grow.
Despite targeting the mainstream audience and youths, Fireboy made a different album. And thanks to frequent collaborator Pheelz, and every other producer who bought into his vision, Apollo is different.
“I’m not tryna be number one. So many legends dey, I’m just tryna be another one,” he says on a track about shutting out friends and family to be alone to focus on his career. “Nothing dey do me, you should know,” he assures them. It’s a song called Airplane Mode. Don’t even get me started on how Fireboy’s simplicity, and apparent humility, washes over to the title of each track: Airplane Mode, Dreamer, Spell, Friday Feeling, Favorite Song – you can already tell what these tracks are about, uhn?
But that’s why he’s relatable. Personally, I heard him talking to me a couple times but that’s not the point. He manages to tell you his ‘legend’ aspirations and calls himself ‘the best’ of his generation in-between these tracks about basic human needs; showing how ambitious we all are as humans and how our ambitions drive and affect love, friendship, family and state of mind. Shebi I tell you say Fireboy don grow?
If you’re looking for Jealous – the smash radio hit that made Fireboy – on Apollo, you won’t find. Because if you think about it, there’s no other song like Jealous on LTG. That’s why you can call “Dreamer” Apollo’s “I need you” and “Friday Feeling” Apollo’s “Scatter.” Think of Apollo as Fireboy’s attempt to record music not defined by genre and trend. Timeless music.
The inspiration for Apollo is from all over and it’s amazing to start picking them apart. From Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory to Mo’ Hits days Wande Coal. I’m hearing these genres – house, electropop, dance – from an African’s perspective for the first time in my life. Most notable is “Favorite Song,” a disco funk track with near perfect production that transports you into a world where anything is possible.
In fact, a traditional review, one I’d have love to write, would have been about analyzing each song and their influences but time no dey.
Album closer, Remember Me, borrows from the Academy Award Winner for Best Original Song of the same name from the 2017 Pixar movie, Coco, in title and theme and it’s still a fantastic song in its own right. “Grace na koko, Talent na jara.”
There are 17 tracks, and only 4 of them cross the 3-minute mark. If that’s the reason I gave Apollo’s repeatability a 90% score is another tori for another day.
Apollo is what I’d call a futuristic experience. A friend described it as “our generation’s music.” How the producers are able to teleport Fireboy DML’s music to that level is the conundrum that keeps you listening over and over again as you try to figure it out.
LTG is one of the best debut albums by a Nigerian artist since Wizkid’s Superstar in 2010. Apollo pulls the incredible feat of being the perfect sophomore album that still leaves a lot of space to breath and promises more for the future. Fireboy, when’s the next one?
So, what are your top 3 tracks? Mine? Airplane Mode, Go Away, Favorite Song/Remember Me.