The suspicious first breaths (and breadths) of dramatic Latin guitar riffs that open “Take Me Back” should have been enough indicator of where Simi was going with this track off her new album, Simisola. For fans of Simi who have trailed tales of the singer’s alleged relationship with Adekunle Gold, “Take Me Back” is another piece of the incomplete puzzle that neither confirms nor rebuffs the claim that both artists share the same on-mic chemistry, off the mic. The added bonus that the only feature on Simi’s long-awaited mainstream debut is Adekunle Gold, the same mysterious potential love interest, even makes this song the more juicy for conspiracy theorists.
Thankfully Simi, who is quite the adept songwriter and skilled composer leverages such expectations with a song that is well positioned as exotic and layered into a potentially bigger story. Simi doubles “Take Me Back” as a chant, and cry for the return of a love she used to know. There is a ‘maybe’ hanging over how apologetic she is, but she’s stripped bare and desperate, because being wrong or right is sometimes not worth losing love.
Simi has been reticent about her personal life, but the key to truly selling a song like “Take Me Back” is realism, and some of it is implied as she addresses her collaborator as ‘Kunle’, a more casual short form of his first name Adekunle. Her collaborator is not lost on the gimmick, he fondly calls Simi ‘Tito’ a short form of her middle name Bolatito.
It’s not as corny as it sounds, especially when Simi is pleading by rejecting the thought of abandonment and admittance of longing, singing “Kunle, don’t you know, that I miss you so”. Her use of “I Miss You”, the magic words to instantly force anyone to daydream about exes that treated them badly is no mistake. After all with Falz, another frequent collaborator, in the picture, Adekunle Gold’s languid ‘Why you do me so’ wail would make sense.
Interestingly, Simi may have casually addressed what she anticipated to come as reactions to “Take Me Back” at her exclusive album-launch concert held quietly in Lagos over the weekend. Before she performed this track while debuting Simisola in front of the live audience, Simi notes that she is aware of some of the sentimental rhetoric that would come with the release of the track. She also warmly references their relationship as collaborators, but just before she signals the live band begin the set, she adds, “Anyway, just listen ehn?”.
There may be more to discover from ripping “Take Me Back” apart but rest of the story kind of tells itself from here. On paper, “Take Me Back” sounds pacy, thanks to the Indian drums and back-up harmonies that meld the mid-tempo guitar pacing. But both Adekunle Gold and Simi equally take their time to ensure emotions are retained within the long Yoruba-accented drawls. Agreed, sometimes, it’s hard to make a case for Simi’s exploitation of her own (rumoured) personal life for Afropop, but it works so well on “Take Me Back” that it is impossible to complain. Whether there is more than meets the eye with real life SimiKun may be irrelevant, but Simi’s ability to build stories and make good pop have never come under bright light like it does with “Take Me Back”.