Barely two years after releasing her self-titled sophomore LP album, Simisola Ogunleye is back with her third strike called Omo Charlie Champagne Volume 1.
Released on the 19th of April to mark her 31st birthday, OCC is comprised of 13 songs with 38 minutes’ spool time. Noteworthy are the familiar suspects on the album: Oscar Heman-Ackah has major production credits alongside Sess and Vtek. Simi’s husband, Adekunle Gold and her long-time collaborator, Falz are featured alongside Patoranking and Maleek Berry.
The most obvious critique of Omo Charlie Champagne is how much it sounds like Simisola. In fact, a more appealing title might be Simisola Vol. 2—the album pretty much mirror-images her elegant and well-wrought sophomore album, becoming a case of a second sophomore, which hardly pushes her career up its trajectory.
There are consequences for courting the familiar which Simisola fails to address on her short skit called The Artist, strategically placed mid-way through the album. The impatient listener may not have made it thus far, since the album begins in a fashion similar to her previous project. Every song on the OCC echoes something from Simisola. Charlie is a jeremiad to her father’s passing, solemn in a manner of Remind Me, with spare piano accompaniment.
The Legendary Beatz produced Ayo may as well be Joromi’s equivalent, since its bassline was taken verbatim from Anambra Beats’ Ayamma. And so on.
The album’s ethos, as with most biographical song-writing, reflects the writer’s mood. Hence, OCC is a meditation on love, loss and lust, thinly disguised as longing. The album fails in exploring new territories in sound, themes and technique. It is business as usual. Fill the studio with the usual suspects and retrieve the standard result. But music, like lightning, doesn’t strike twice.
Simisola travelled well because of its timing, nuance and traditional leanings. It was the thing of beauty that showed coming of age, showcased impeccable song-writing and attention to detail in a manner that curated the traditional sound for a new era. That was novel in 2017, little wonder she gleaned the biggest category of the Headies Award, album of the year.
Also, Simi the artist, had successfully redefined herself. She had evolved from the Simi of the upbeat Gospel tempo of Oga Ju through to the ballad singer of secular love songs. But where the thematic change was drastic, her vocal range remained the same.
Omo Charlie Champagne fails to impress due to its incredulous inertia. One can almost draw its free-spiritedness and leanings into dancehall and the risqué as its major departure from Simisola, but they are hardly advancements. It just seems decorous for Simi to sing about these themes now.
In lieu of growth and maturity, Omo Charlie Champagne embraces old tricks and stasis, a fatal problem that bedevils popular contemporary Nigerian music. This is even tricky for an artist of Simi’s stature, straddling the crossroad between the alternative sound and what is deemed popular.
On this album, Simi tries for a second sophomore and faces the risk of being rewarded accordingly.