These songs were not just popular hits, they impressed us with the scale of their artistry.
- Ayo- Simi
Simi’s bubbly infectious ode to the good life isn’t just a prosperity anthem even though it feels like one for most of its running time. Repurposing a forgotten tune from the highlife band, The Anambra Beats, Simi reorganizes the song and manages to make it something Sir Ebenezer Obey would have recorded in his heyday.
- Dumebi- Rema
Rema’s Dumebi is perhaps the unlikeliest hit of the year. Half of it is playful gibberish and sounds like the vibing of a kid who is bored in the studio. But it is for this same reason that it works, even better than songs that had a lot more thoughtfulness to their penmanship. Making it all come together is Rema’s innocent appeal that crosses the bridge between afrobeats and alte. None of it would work without him at the center.
- The Beginning- Asa
No one does emo quite like Asa and her fourth studio record Lucid leans into all of her strengths- inescapable melodies, polished production, stellar songwriting and pointed observations on love and life. The Beginning is a piano drenched ballad that traces with utmost conviction the collapse of a relationship while longing for the beautiful beginning when all was well.
- Hypocrite- Falz
With his Moral Instruction album, Falz appointed himself judge and jury of Nigerian living and Hypocrite is the track most representative of the record’s ambitions- and of Falz’s superficial moralizing. Demmie Vee provides a barbed chorus as Falz points fingers at every class and strata of citizens. We are all guilty and no one is left out in this self-righteous J’accuse.
- Dangote- Burna Boy
Dangote, named after the richest black person on the planet is both an indictment of poverty and a strong endorsement of industry. Some interesting ideas are embedded within the song but like a typical popstar, Burna Boy goes about laying them out via name dropping while rightly or wrongly elevating the billionaire businessman as some aspirational model. The politics of Dangote may be dodgy but the lush production on the record complete with Fela-ish jazz horns is simply irresistible.
- Risky- Davido ft Popcaan
Making lemonade from lemons, Davido engineered a remarkable turnaround by taking a poorly received freestyle session from earlier and refashioning it to one of the strongest hooks of the year. Receiving assistance from Jamaican dancehall act Popcaan and producer Speroach Beatz, Risky benefits from skittering drums and a loose narrative style.
- Jealous- Fireboy DML
Released in the twilight days of 2018, Jealous crossed over to become one of the biggest, most ubiquitous songs of 2019, delivering instant superstar status to YBNL’s Fireboy DML. Produced by Cracker Mallo, Jealous borrows heavily from Arabian and highlife music. But it also stands as its own saccharine sweet thing, conjuring up memories of lazy summers and innocence lost.
- Try me- Tems
The force and power of Tems’ delivery on her breakout hit Try Me is matched only by the energy that the song inspires. The breakout vocalist confidently unspools a story of love and loss, crime and revenge that revolves her personality and she dares you to turn away while she is emoting. Not since Cynthia Morgan has a female artiste seized attention in this confident, unmissable manner.
- Cash- Lady Donli
Cash has a jazzy, endlessly groovy melody that marries Lady Donli’s alte eccentricity with the more mainstream yearning for financial breakthrough. Brimming with the magnetism that made Lady Donli one of the breakout artistes of the year, Cash is not only addictive, it is the kind of song that is sure to be rotating on playlists long after this present cycle.
- Ego (Nobody Wins)- Sarz X WurlD
The most articulate singer and songwriter of his generation, WurlD was exposed to a bigger audience via I Love Girls With Trouble, his collaborative EP with beatmaker Sarz. About time too as WurlD ‘s talent if nurtured and guided properly, is one that has the potential to change the game perhaps irrevocably. Ego (Nobody Wins) houses such delicate and precise songwriting, the kind that observes the toll that ego takes on human relationships. The only thing more sharply drawn out than WurlD’s writing is his vocal performance.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.