While Adekunle Gold has made a systematic transformation from folksy singer to pop bad boy, his latest project lacks the kind of inspiration that sparked this change and simply appears to be an exercise in continuity.
The release of Adekunle Gold’s highly anticipated fourth album has been met with mixed reviews from the demographic that should be the most involved; his audience. Releasing four albums over the course of eight years shows glimpses of an organized and deliberate attempt at simply putting out music, upon a closer look, his artistic trajectory has also witnessed a purposeful lift in fortune. Taking a detour from his seminal blend of Afrobeats and Highlife, his proper entry into the fray of Afropop came via the aptly titled third album, Afro Pop Vol. 1. Helmed by hits like "Something Different" and "AG Baby", the sonic shift was accompanied by a visual and creative facelift that introduced an Adekunle Gold capable of competing with some of the biggest names in the Afrobeats/pop landscape. Utilizing R&B and more live instrumentation, evidence of his success at this task are some of the recent hits such as High alongside Davido and Sinner with Lucky Daye.
Yet, besides the singles, ー "High", "Sinner," "It Is What It Is" and "Mercy" ー the rest of the project’s ten records appear to be an exercise in continuity. Doubling down on a preferred sound and image is an admirable and necessary approach when attempting to solidify one’s artistry in a sense. However, becoming an authority on a sound can be a distraction from the greater task of pushing boundaries and attempting new things. Adekunle Gold appears to be firmly caught between both situations. His systematic transformation from Adekunle Gold to AG Baby has seen him insert less Nigerian language in his lyricism and apply more globally acceptably enunciation to his English speaking. It has also discouraged his folksier alter ago from making the slightest of reappearances, even though some of his best records (such as "Orente" and "Ire") ever centred their elements on the said persona. In a bid to combat the slightly rushed globalization of his music, records like the album intro with Fatoumata Diawara, "Born Again", and "Mase Mi" are his only attempts to stem that tide. The rest of the album haplessly gives into the greater motion of his recent orientation. Some of the latest standouts are the records with Ty Dolla $ign ("One Man Woman"), Foushee ("Dior, Dior, Dior") and Stefflon Don ("FYE") breaking up the monotony of his own voice. On "More than Enough", the 35-year-old comes the closest to his past stylistically by enlisting horns and a guitar.
Lyrically while Adekunle remains sharp as ever ー covering everything from familial relationships to romantic encounters with the same degree of emotion ー his songwriting is starting to feel slightly dated and uninspiring. Sonically, the production also leaves a little bit more to be desired.
In a bid to become a challenger of the traditional Nigerian big three, Adekunle Gold has become an extension of their brand of Afropop. Edging ahead vocally however is not enough to change the status quo, only a successful attempt at merging both his earlier styles and his newest forays seems capable of perhaps putting him in the conversation as one of Africa’s greatest yet. However, Catch Me If You Can only achieves half of that.