Album review: Aramide’s Suitcase is packed full of goodies

by Wilfred Okiche

Gifted vocalist, Aramide has been around for a spell now, since her runner-up finish at the 2006 edition of talent hunt show, Star Quest. She’s had a spell with eLDee’s Trybe records, before finding kin with Baseline records. Active on the underground scene for a long time, Aramide has gotten high-profile notices with the release of her 2014 single Iwo nikan and upset wins in the female categories of both The Headies and All Africa Music Awards.

Suitcase, her debut album, going by the album art is inspired by the 1998 Grammy-winning masterpiece, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, what with its sole close up portrait of the singer rocking braid extensions and the album’s title atop.

Content wise, it would be an unwise attempt to match Ms Hill’s opus but who’s to say one cannot try? Aramide wisely chooses not to try and goes in a different direction, one that incorporates influences from Sade Adu, Erykah Badu and Tracy Chapman.

The opener, Eledumare is a Yoruba gospel chorus performed with big voiced, guitar strumming, drums beating diva-style glee. Newbies to the sounds and styles of Aramide should be suitable impressed by her vocal prowess.

She dials down a bit on Why so serious, a playful if timely passage on female sexuality and the right to pick and discard lovers at will. Finding herself bored by a paramour who won’t just let go after a single hook up, she complains, 300 missed calls, on top one night stand/Why you getting pissed off? I don’t understand/Although we had a blast together/It wasn’t meant to last forever.

This marks some exciting forward thinking, a quality that is particularly welcoming in an industry where the hit songs exist mostly to objectify the female form as romantic relationships are approached mostly from the male gaze.
On Hurry up, Aramide is strictly sensual and in control as she demands her male lover take her clothes off and make sweet love to her. We haven’t seen sentiments this brazen from a female pop star since a pre-marriage Tiwa Savage.

Aramide scored a hit with Funmi Lowo, an interesting joyful mashup that takes threads from Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy and Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money and stitches them into an eccentric funky mix that comments on the up and coming musician’s daily struggles. The song (featuring an extraneous Sir Dauda) is even more believable coming from Aramide probably because she has lived the experience.

Early Sade Adu returns briefly in the smoky, mysterious swirl of Bose, a vilification of a friend who lives mostly for the gossip. In the chorus, she namechecks the usual suspects (CNN, BBC, LIB amongst others) as the ultimate destination for the title character’s favourite past time. Sweet Connection benefits greatly from a saxophone riff and previously released Feeling this feeling chooses traditional drums to tell a story of seduction and sexual awakenings.

Lovers of early Nollywood will recall the Yemi my lover catchphrase which Aramide uses as a foundation to build a narrative of love and devotion while Stranger in Rome switches things up for a reggae lite sway.

By the time Aramide gets to guest stars, Ice Prince and Adekunle Gold, the best parts of Suitcase have already flown by, their presence only for strategic (Read: commercial) reasons. But her talent is too special, her sound though still unfolding, remains too mature to need any juvenile interruption. The sassy bounce of Devil at my doorstep takes things back to regular programming though as Aramide and her big voice take centre stage once more.

On Suitcase, a fine debut as any ever heard, Aramide displays a dazzling level of talent and confidence in her sound. She refuses to be put in a suitcase and shows she can be many things at once. She knows she is yet to settle into her own distinct sound but her message seems to be that the journey is more important, and can be just as much fun as the destination.

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