Bukola Elemide, popularly known as ASA, released her fifth studio album, ‘V’ [five in roman numeral, notice the intentionality?] on the 25th of February. Right from when she dropped the sensational song “fire on the mountain”, ASA has not ceased to remain the vivid storyteller with a knack for profound lyrics blended with jazz beat and swirl moves.
Unarguably, she’s the celebrity of celebrities and a favourite to all. Not only does her artistry stand her out, Her character and style, especially her locked hair compliments her alte fashion making her a phenomenal difference and an appeal to Gen Z. On this album, ‘V’ she switches things up a bit and brings in alternative and Afrobeats fusion to the mix and oh boy, it’s spectacular!
Before I delve into why the “V” album is an extravaganza and an eargasmic art, let’s go down memory lane. Who knows, we might notice a pattern.
Bukola’s eponymous Asa’s debut 10-track album titled Asa graced ears in 2007. Epic storytelling and an art that slowly introduced listeners to her style and mind, picking inspiration from politics and introspection. Purely grand!
Then she went on to release her second album “Beautiful Imperfections” in 2011,— an astounding title for an album filled with imperfectly perfect tracks as each song on the album is an imperfection and cumulatively, a beautiful imperfection. It spelled an increased effort in music production, compared to the first album. Just like we all do, embrace growth and implement it.
In 2014, ASA reminds us of her specularity with “Bed Of Stone” as she delivers a variety of musical sounds with her smoky voice. She experimented a lot in this album by using different sounds including country, pop, blues and more. She delved deep with her lyrics and expressed heartbreak, hedonism, immigration and more in it. Again, her album gets better and brain-stimulating at every release. I call it the chef-d’oeuvre. “Lucid”, 2019, showed an experienced songwriter with a clear-cut and vivid album. It was a simple pop production laced with love lyrics and vivid storytelling technique. Love makes the world move, shake and bloom, and Lucid told us all about it.
What is noticed in the series of albums and time differences? The evolved, yet profound sounds, complementary to the era changes. Thematic coherence and deep lyrics wrapped in legendary artistry and storytelling. This doesn’t stop in “V”. Only this time we have a much more playful yet relaxed tone and voice like a glucose guardian would do.
V: The Album
In essence, with “V” ASA wants you to sway and feel at home. She wants you to have a good time with her new, modern and fresh sonic dynamism. In her words to Apple Music, she said, “V is about happiness, love, friendships and lots of joy”. I think that comes from a place of solitude from isolation. After the pandemic that happened in 2020 and lasted for that long, I think it’s understandable and even makes the whole album a thoughtful and vibe-filled one. This album was produced by the exceptional 20-year old P-prime (most of the tracks) and it featured artists like the dean of Afrobeats, Wizkid; the alte hotshot, Amaarae; and the highlife gurus, The Cavemen.
A peak into “V” and you are welcomed with “Mayana”, a fresh and boisterous afrobeat sound. “You and me, my forever / I will be your mayana” just gives a good free verse opening. Albeit sounds different from other openings of her other album, we are embracing differences, please. She establishes a story of having a good time with her lover on an island and being his forever ‘cause there will be
“nothing but our love,
Nothing but our love,
Nothing but the smile on our face…”
Questions have been asked about the meaning of “mayana”, there are various meanings but the one that I think resonates with the storyline is “forever” and “well spring of life”. With this, it just means Asa is saying she wants to be the wellspring of life to her lover in the song. It’s a sweet short sound with unforgettable lyrics.
“Ocean”, co-written with Wurld; the electro-fusion singer and songwriter, comes next. If you listen closely, his voice is in the background also. ASA says she wrote this song at 4am in the morning like every other song that she writes. In her words, “4am is an important time for me, because I’m more active, creative and much more.”
“IDG”, the third song on the album, had an organic tone to it. It’s not far fetched- the dean of Afrobeats was featured in it. The song explains how she wants to find her home and love with zero bad vibes. Remember, Asa wants you to feel the good vibe. There was a part that had caribe and soweto expressing how you shouldn’t go too far to find love.
If you are with me, you’ll remember how I said love was mentioned a lot in this album? Yeah, “Nike” took that path also, with a storyline of course. Imagine you loving up and seeing the world with someone, no one else matches the feel and butterflies they give you, then everything goes south and you are looking for the similarities in other people you meet and they aren’t just “good enough”. Yes yes yes, there you go, you have “Nike” making you feel those emotions.
But when you remember yourself in that feel-good love moment, then “show me off” is the perfect song to put you in a good picture. Just like the title suggests, the free verse gives off that vibe-
“You’re like the beautiful sunrise in the morning
When I look into your eyes, they mesmerize me
Oh, you remind me that l am lucky lucky
You’re the one that l’m gonna live my life with”
I for one sang this song to my partner and I know it’s definitely going up as an addition to my wedding playlist songs or those romantic Karaoke nights, “Show Me Off” is perfect. The highlife-y and relaxed sound makes it the sound to slowly swirl to. Beguiling!
“Morning man” comes up and if you are single, you start to say “god when? Just when would I find my morning man and be the person I see early in the morning?. We love love, and that’s essential. Regardless of the kind of relationship, which is why I like that ASA sang “Good Times” with “The Cavemen”, the perfect combo and words can’t simply describe how quintessential it is. Personally, it is my best track and this is because I value love and friendship.
“Good times are always gold
Lately I have been so cold
And I want to be
with you my friend”
Words like this and more were said in this track that highly gives reference to friendships. This song takes you right back to the feel and texture of highlife South African music or Palm wine music.
Remember how “Nike” envisages a broken hearted person not willing to try again? “Believer” negates that, “baby I’m a believer, I’m a believer” it’s a sound for someone that is willing to try again at loving hard after the first knocks her off hard. And boy, the hook was a proof of her vocals, it sounded like she was in a musing mood when she penned this piece.
The wispy-voiced Amaarae did her magic in “All I ever wanted” and ASA brought her authenticity alongside as well. There was a sprinkle of Yoruba here and there, it brought a smile straight up to my face ‘cause ASA tried to sound as wispy as Amaarae does, it is adorable. I love it!
I love love also, greatly even, it’s one of the greatest things in the world and ASA came in front of it with this album. She wrapped the album up with the last track “love me or give me red wine” – a sound encased with feminine beauty and assertiveness. In her description of this song to Apple Music, she said “this song takes me somewhere, perhaps to a past relationship”. ASA, yes, it took me somewhere, it took me into myself, caressing my beautiful and independent self while drinking red wine. For a kind of wine that stimulates my sexuality and sensuality, yes, it did take me to a place.
For some of her fans, the paragon of love and solitude, that lasted for a reasonable thirty minutes might come off as lacking in the lyrics department, as they are used to fierce lyrics. However, it gives a fierce attention to love and what’s not to love about it? You got it, nothing.
This is a win for her on all sides and I won’t be surprised if it’s put on the table for “album of the year” boy! It deserves it.
In my words, I’ll say the “V” means vibes ‘cause that’s all it gave, good vibes that lingers with love and fondness. All we need in this mad world.
© Johnson, Temiloluwa (2022)