Banky W’s new album: Too much of heart, little creativity

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FREEPRESS – News of Banky W’s engagement to Adesua Etomi broke the internet and made men around the country uncomfortable, as their significant others side-eyed them in jealousy. The moment was magical and the picture that immortalized it has now been liked more than 163,000 times on Instagram. Banky got down on one knee, looked into Adesua’s eyes and reached for her left hand, and Adesua, in turn, placed her right hand lovingly on the shoulder of her husband-to-be, while the rest of Nigeria looked on, gooey-eyed.

Banky’s caption beneath the picture was passionate and poetic, he professed: “I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I’m completely sure that I am ready to face it with you by my side.” Nothing short of what you’d expect from a man who’s said all those things in song form for the past 10 plus years. Love stories are nothing new for one of Nigeria’s greatest R&B singer-songwriters but for the first time in his illustrious career, the normally guarded Banky W shared the actual woman in his life with the rest of the world – he even wrote an album about her.

Banky released his fifth studio album Songs About U last week. In the days leading up to its release, the singer explained that, “it is completely about her (Adesua). The majority of the songs on the forthcoming “Songs About U” project are… only like 2 or so are not.” The album was released a few days after the couple held their introduction ceremony, as their love affair continued to blossom. Now, it is said that the greatest gift a singer could ever give to their loved one is to make music about them but the Songs About U album hasn’t been able to steal the attention that team #BAAD has been getting.

The reason for this could be the way the project is being promoted or not being promoted. Banky and his wife-to-be have been working hard on the sequel to their super-successful movie, The Wedding Party, and the singer-turned-actor is yet to go on a proper press run to support the album. Instead, Banky has tried to piggyback off the public’s fascination with his on-camera/off-camera romance with Adesua, and it hasn’t worked so far. Also, with his acting, his event hosting, and now his private life making more headlines than his singing these days, Banky’s musical stock isn’t as high as it was on, say, the The W Experience album in ‘09. So, in what looks like a move to cool expectations and absolve himself of any pressure for it to do well, he’s calling Songs About U a ‘playlist’, Drake-style.

Another clever thing the veteran singer is doing is to maximize whatever commercial value the Songs About U moment may actually have. The album is being distributed exclusively through Music Plus until June 1st, when it will be available everywhere. This means Banky has entered into a potentially lucrative deal with the MTN-owned music service. He also entered into a partnership with Visit Dubai Africa to offer fans that get the album the chance to win an exclusive experience in the beautiful city.

You can tell a lot of thought went into planning out the music on Songs About U as well. For instance, the ‘you’ on the album title was shorthanded to a ‘u’ and so were the titles of 7 out of the 8 or so songs that Banky says were specifically dedicated to his wife-to-be. The songs loosely tell a story, Mr. W went from promising to leave his bad boy ways behind on “Better For U”, to enacting the beautiful proposal on “All For U”, to looking forward to spending the rest of his life with his lover on “Made For U”.

Interestingly, the one song dedicated to Adesua that didn’t have a ‘u’ in its title was even more direct. We all have a pet name for our significant others, on “Heaven”, Banky lets us know that ‘Susu’ is what he calls his. “Heaven” is a beautiful acoustic ballad where the R&B heartthrob shares his hopes that their love will never die, even when they themselves eventually do. It’s powerful and moving.

An album this timely and this emotive is a useful addition to Banky’s outstanding catalog but Songs About U isn’t the singer’s creative peak. When an artist is in love and wants to share their relationship with the world through the music, it’s important for them to do so artfully or the music becomes this one-on-one thing that the listener feels like they’re eavesdropping on and, worst still, can’t re-apply to their own lives.

It’s also important for that artist to introduce topical and emotional variety – even if they’re overwhelmingly happy or overwhelmingly sad in real life – or they’ll end up making some of the most 1-dimensional music of their careers. Sadly, Songs About U is single-minded and simplistic, Banky put a lot of his creative sensibilities to the side and made an album with so much of his heart but so little of his music head.

Alas, you can be disappointed in the Songs About U album and still be happy for the love affair that inspired it. The King of the Lagos Party has finally found the Queen of His Area – they’ll be having a wedding party soon, this time around, it is for real.

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