Apollo’ documents Fireboy’s artistic and personal evolution [Album Review]

 If Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps was his battle cry to get noticed, Apollo is his victory parade. On its very first track, he screamed it and made everybody know. He sung-rapped, “I’m a king, I’m the best my generation ever seen…”

Apollo is more sonically and topically diverse than Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps and Apollo are just opposite sides of a coin nigh a sword. The music reflects his current stance in life and that of the current Nigerian soundscape just as on his debut. But dare I say that on Apollo, Fireboy makes better music.

Make no mistake, while both albums are both reflective of Fireboy’s sound and brand, they are markedly different - both sonically and topically. Olamide should take a bow for his A&R work on this album. You must really understand the importance of branding to A&R this album.

The evolving brand of Fireboy

More than anything, Apollo is the creation of an increasingly confident young man and a cross-section of traits and occurrences that define his current life.

On Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps, he was a loverboy who hoped to create soundtracks to amorous occasions for his fellow youth while also hoping to make them dance. But on Apollo, he slightly steps away from that persona and becomes a more confident version of himself.

He even takes a nonchalant jibe at his haters on, ‘Lifestyle.’ He uses it as a weapon when he sang, “Ever since I got my first hit song, they’ve been jealous. Silly a** broke a** n***s, but since I got famous, I couldn’t care less... I nor dey fake am, it’s a lifestyle. Make I yarn you, I’m better than most of them...”

Some might argue that Fireboy’s more confident use of his voice - with lesser reliance on auto-tune and effects - is the best change about Fireboy on Apollo, but it’s not. The confident vanity and carefree braggadocio is the biggest change.

Some of this confidence and braggadocio were heard on, ‘Wait and See’ - the final track off Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. But even as vindictive as that record was, that level of vanity and confidence has nothing on this version of Fireboy. Nonetheless, it’s so amazing to see him evolve at this pace and on this level.

Fireboy is known for his unproblematic and easy going personality and lifestyle. Those traits come to the fore on ‘Afar’ featuring Olamide as Fireboy shoos bad energy away. He tells haters to, “Love me from afar. E pay me o…” on this Afro-swing beat defined by that choir effect.

Fireboy also opens this track with aplomb - its first 40 second are amazing. Moreover, the confidence and dismissiveness with which he defiantly says, “E pay me o…” reeks of subtle ego from a young man who seriously seeks to protect his own mental health and space.

When he gets attracted to ‘Shade’ on that Electro-Pop beat with Eurodance essence and Afro-pop percussion, he wasn’t just singing about how his heart beats like a drum, he admired her dance skills and her sexy body. Guess who moves like that? Yoruba demons. He might have praised ‘Shade’ for holding him down, but he wasn’t in his loverboy bag.

It’s also great to see that he has claws, not just paws. On social media streets and in music circles across real life, the new guard of Rema, Fireboy, Joeboy and Omal Lay have been praised for their easy-going ways because Wizkid, Davido and Olamide already had major drama by 2011.

Yet, that perception always feels problematic because human beings are flawed. Just as it was nice to see Remabreak the teenage shackles with his polygamous battle cry on, ‘Woman,’ Fireboy’s brand is evolving to make him more grown and human. This isn’t dissimilar to Wizkid go from the loverboy on, ‘Holla At Your Boy’ to the bad boy on, ‘Tease Me’ and then the party monster on, ‘Pakurumo.’

This version of Fireboy exemplifies Pusha T’s lines on, ‘Games We Play.’ Those lines read, “No jewelry on, but you richer than everybody. You laugh a little louder, the DJ say your name a little prouder and we don't need a globe to show you the world is ours.”

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