It’s been two years since Adekunle Gold’s self-titled album ‘Gold’ buzzed into our airwaves and consciousness. Many will agree that it was about time, he hit us with his sophomore effort, which he calls ‘About 30’.
Adekunle Gold has been laying claim to age 30 since his first album. His breakthrough song, ‘Sade’ put his musician persona at about that age. More than three years after, his age is either being downsized or we are counting his songs from the first acoustic intro on ‘Gold’ to ‘Call On Me’, the last song on ‘About 30’ in an order specific to his discography. Either way, dwelling on numbers is not rewarding.
On the ‘About 30’ album, Adekunle Gold has no intention of changing his modus operandi. He still fancies himself the poster boy of masculine affection who can stitch together a love song that states his financial situation, his undying love and good morals all at once. Thankfully his finance is out of the wood but he must mine that memory of lack for its poignant currency because happy songs suck, mostly.
Those who come to this album seeking out novelty may leave disappointed. Though ‘About 30’ still has a journey to becoming de-familiarised by the ears, the idea is clear: Adekunle Gold is still working out of the Juju/Highlife medium with an exotic flair that make it hard for him to be boxed as Alternative.
‘Ire’, the first single released, is already a certified hit. A pastiche on an overdose of ambition, the introductory drum rolls of Beninois veteran singer Nel Oliver’s ‘Baby Girl’ and Yoruba Gospel doyenne Funmi Aragbaiye’s turn of phrase are borrowed to rework Darey’s ‘Pray for me’ into a grander Home-Sweet-Home repatriation song. The song would have pulled through critically if it had not been caught in the undertow of marrying well-meaning secular themes with gospel inclinations. The crack is in the song-writing, which is the weakest aspect of Adekunle Gold’s craft.
Propped up by credited assists (Dyo, Seun Kuti, Flavour, LCGC, Jacob Banks) and uncredited background vocals of Simisola Ogunleye, ‘About 30’ may outlive that legendary sophomore slump. However, standout moments are few and far between. Brilliance cannot be generously ascribed to entire songs; occasionally a chorus, a phrase, even an adlib steals the day but, on the whole, the album struggles valiantly to impress solely on the presciption of good morals.
Of course, the difference between ‘Gold’ and ‘About 30’ is neither as distant as Gold vs Brass or Gold vs Gold-plated but the crisis of creative concern is self-conscious.
The music seems in search of a new kind of melancholia as fulcrum. Whilst it sits well on a soulful song about the anxieties of alienation like ‘Fame’, it blights on a dilemma discerning tune like ‘Somebody’. On that spectra of performance, there are songs like the inherently weak but percussive ‘Mama’ and the acoustically spare but maudlin ‘There is a God’. At every instance, circumspect song-writing would have served him better.
But when all is said and done, ‘About 30’ is still a victory for Adekunle Gold, especially after leaping out of the YBNL stable to chart his musical trajectory on his own terms.