Contemporary Nigerian pop music or Afrobeats suffers from poor lyrics which is a reflection of the Nigerian society.
There is a thread that runs through the hottest Afrobeats (sigh…still a horrible name) songs rights now, and that is bad lyrics.
While the world is paying attention and raving to the sounds coming out of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, no one has exactly praised the genre for its lyrical depth. Rather the focus is on the enchanting beats and intensive melody.
New York Times pop culture writer Reggie Ugwu in his 2016 article said this “Contemporary Nigerian pop is both proudly local and pleasantly porous.” It’s a two-edged sword, killer tunes with really poor content.
Whether you are team Wizkid or Davido, you cannot deny that while our pop jams are insanely melodious and highly rhythmic they offer little or less when it comes to properly written lyrics.
Pop music isn’t exactly brain food anywhere in the world but there is a standard of quality. The lyrics don’t need to be worthy of Nobel prize but it should be strong enough to present itself as a product of superior thinking and not the byproduct of a lamba freestyle.
Take Tekno‘s twist of the classic hit ‘Kpolongo‘ by the duo Mad Melon & Mountain Black is a good example of the average lyrical standard of Afrobeats.
Deep into the contagious groove, Tekno sings;
“I say no complications I get education Mind your obligation Is to make sure say money dey for the occasion Oh wana wana, yeah tapa tapa I like the way your body go sapa sapa Girl o faka eh O tantantan Baby girl you do me like that santata oh.”
In the club, I could care less about what Tekno is saying here but outside the shrine of booze, nicotine and party vixens, I have paused to wonder what exactly is going on here.
And truthfully, I have been bemused by the poor lyrical content in a lot of our pop songs. It seems we can’t hear a good verse made up of carefully crafted lines. The formula to come up with a hit is to record the first thing that pops out of your mouth and follow it up with equally baffling lines.
While we celebrate the rising prominence of Nigerian pop songs on a global scale, we cannot deny that contemporary pop music is not the best we can come up with. It is a product for people who want to live high off life and forget about their daily problems.
Nigerian contemporary pop music, Afrobeats or whatever you want to call it is a reflection of the times we live in. Our society today is flashy and fast-paced but underneath the sheen shows a society that lacks a spine and moral fibre.
The Nigerian society is as shallow as the next pop hit that is going to top the charts. Order and discipline, these are two things you won’t find in Nigeria. We live in a chaotic and lawless society where anything goes. The most populous city in Africa, Lagos, has a poor trans.portation system
The madness you see on our streets is the same madness you will hear on our radio stations. The reason we listen to these songs is the same reason why we are okay with the conditions we find ourselves in, we have been conditioned to believe it is normal. If you can drive through a badly constructed road without complaining, surely you can listen to an Afrobeats tune that makes no sense.
Art mirrors life and that is what contemporary pop music is doing. It is a product of the environment, simple as that. You can’t expect a 20-something pop star to not be influenced by the randomness of our country. A few won’t but many will.
Nigerians are obsessed with materialism and living the good life. These are not bad things to aim for but in a society where corruption thrives, people would do anything to get their hands on a slice of the national cake by hook or by crook.
This creates a dark hustler’s mentality. The desire to get rich by any means and quickly too is a problem over here. It has killed the desire to work hard and nullified long-term plans. Nothing is guaranteed tomorrow so you hustle for today, short-term over the long term.
There are many talented singers out there who have mortgaged having a long-term career for a short-term one sustained by coming up with a hit every six months. This approach is sure to burn any talent no matter how gifted. For those who can sustain it, their mental health is the most likely to suffer.
Materialism, women and having a nice time are the tropes of contemporary pop music in Nigeria. It’s the Afrobeats lyric trinity. The range is sadly very limited. These tropes make up our pop culture, it’s our DNA. The desire to be rich, have beautiful women surround you and have a nice time.
Lurking in the shadow is the reality of things. Nigeria has a myriad of problems from terrorism to poverty. If you listen to our pop songs though you won’t Nigeria is a greatly troubled country.
Our pop songs help listeners escape into an alternate reality, a matrix where everything is okay and where we don’t want to deal with our everyday problems.
They are getaways to hide from the stress of living in Nigeria. You could almost call it a gateway drug to run away from the realities of Nigeria.
There is no study about it yet but we can assume that the rise of contemporary pop music and drug abuse in the country has to do with the stress of living in modern-day Nigeria.
Scientific research has shown that your brain processes music the same way it does drugs and sex. The consumption of weed, Tramadol or a pop song with cheesy lyrics is to create a high to block the stress.
Until Nigeria gets better, our pop songs will not get better. Mediocrity which essentially runs the country has also seeped into our music studios. What our stars sing is just a reflection of us as a people. And this is not a criticism but a mere reflection of why things are the way they are.