Review: Iffy hosts, badly behaved stars and mediocre performances… just another year at the Headies


Two things that emerged from last night’s Headies.

First, twelve years after inception, the Headies- formerly known as the Hip Hop World Awards- remains the frontline reward system for Nigerian music talent. Despite the drama, the seeming inconsistencies, and the naysaying from the very community it was set up to promote, the Headies has stayed the course. It means something to the industry and winning is still very much a big deal.

Two: The industry, Nigerian artistes in particular, aren’t deserving of it. Ayo Animashaun and his Smooth Promotions have taken it upon themselves to consistently deliver a reward system for musicians come rain or shine. This goal isn’t entirely altruistic as there is some business element to factor in, but instead of respect, renown and appreciation- although there is some of that- artistes offer in return, childish tantrums, offhand cutting remarks and a failure to show up.

This bad behavior was at the fore this year.

Even though the show was moved to a neutral May period to accommodate artistes who claim to be too busy profiting off the December prime season to sit and smile through a five-hour show, a couple of A-listers were still no shows at Nigerian music’s biggest night.

Expecting Wizkid to show up for anything these days may be akin to expecting the President of the federal republic to show up for a bore hole commissioning project, although one shouldn’t put it past Buhari’s government. But Wizkid missed his own Coachella performance slot, two weeks in a row, everything else is considered fair game.

Wizkid won the audience baiting Viewer’s Choice as well as an undeserved nod for Best R&B/Pop album for his middling Sounds from the Other Side experiment. Come Closer took the prize for Best Video while the duet, Ma Lo with ‘’bestie’’ Tiwa Savage was named Best Collabo. Starboy wasn’t around to claim any of his prizes. Winners 2Baba and Small Doctor were also on the no show list. Having won so many of the trophies, 2Baba may be forgiven for having Headies fatigue, but Small Doctor with all of one genuine hit song, should have no reason for missing out on a moment so big.

Dr Sid came forwards to accept label mate, Tiwa Savage’s prize on her behalf, claiming she was backstage preparing for a performance. It must have been some performance Ms Savage envisioned, as almost two hours later, she was yet to hit the stage. When she eventually did, her performance was a far throw from shocking commitment to mediocrity with some technical glitches thrown in. Choosing to perform the problematic DJ Enimoney hit, Diet alongside Slimcase plus an inebriated Reminisce was an act of subversion that could have worked if it were thought through properly. This one, like Ms Savage’s recent run of live performances was atrocious.

It is 2018 and in Lagos, Nigeria, artistes still come to the stage with their entire families to make acceptance speeches. Last night’s Headies was particularly horrifying to watch. Anticipating a huge night, Davido came with an entire village to support him. These hangers-on prevented Mayorkun from giving a proper speech when he accepted his hotly contested Next Rated prize and also made it impossible for Davido to say anything after his Song of the Year win for If.

When Davido eventually spoke, following his inevitable Artiste of the Year prize, it was a rambling, privileged demand that his colleagues step up and make some effort to lifting others up. It could have been better phrased and less self-serving, but at least his heart was in the right place.

Omawumi was gracious enough to ask bestie, Waje, also nominated for Best Female Vocal Performance to join her onstage for her Butterflies win, but someone should have told Waje that it is in bad taste to interrupt a winner’s moment. Doesn’t matter if they are your sister. The same memo should be dispatched to Timaya who not only interrupted Omawumi’s moment, but also made host Bovi a tad uncomfortable when he ran onstage to grab the mic.

Speaking of, hosts, Bovi and Seyi Shay- with her 76 wardrobe changes- made for an awkward pairing. The chemistry between the two wasn’t quite sufficient and Ms Shay’s habit of overcompensating for her ill-preparedness by fangirling everyone she was asked to introduce made her come across as ditzy. Bovi was able to land some funny jokes, at least one of them at Ms Shay’s expense, but they had more misses than hits. The Ellen Oscar night selfie recreation was particularly unremarkable.

Sound and technical issues were constant for most of the night and the performances were not exactly top notch but Mr Real, Johnny Drille and Simi who later won a very well deserving Album of the Year nod for her sophomore record, Simisola, were decent highlights. Rolling back the years, one half of the duo Zule Zoo delivered a fantastic rendition of the classic Kerewa that shone through despite some sound switch challenges.

By Headies’ standards, the twelfth one was a mostly efficient affair, shorn of big standout moments. It is difficult to expect excellence from an industry where the practitioners aren’t used to delivering at that level. It will be said that at end of the day the Headies put on a show deserving of Nigerians. Needlessly overlong, occasionally entertaining, loud and brimming with self-important people. What’s not to like?

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