Essentials: Omah Lay’s 'Boy Alone' Is A Vague and Repetitive Monologue
On the talented Port Harcourt singer's debut full-length, he sounds like an emotionally unstable 'bad boy' whose communication skills could use some work.
A few days before Boy Alone dropped, news came out that Omah Lay had been dealing with personal issues over the course of the last year. This news came off the back of his release date being pushed back, which understandably dampened the excitement surrounding the album. Over the last few years, Omah Lay stuck to the charts like lint on denim after a significant breakout year in 2020. Despite the setbacks, everyone had their eyes and ears on him, waiting in patient anticipation for what the Port Harcourt native had in store.
His catalog already holds weight. Get Layd, his debut EP is an immersive experience into a world of smooth Afrobeats records. Since then Omah Lay has continued in the same vein — crafting a plethora of airy, melancholic tunes carried by the Nigerian bounce and coated in global appeal. The best way to describe him is moody and his penchant for laying bare his emotions on his records endeared him to the world, scoring collaborations with artists such as Disclosure, 6lack, and Justin Bieber along the way.
For the album title, he says he adopted his father’s nickname, representing an unwillingness to succumb to the crowd and peer pressure. Omah Lay’s private difficult moments shape the narrative preceding the release of Boy Alone. We are immediately thrust into a melancholic world enveloped within a reverberating bounce. You become inclined to pay keen attention to what he has to say, offering yourself not only as a contributor to his streaming revenue but as an empathizer who can relate to certain aspects of his pain.
After the album’s release, he took to Twitter to bring his story closer to the fans. In a series of interesting tweets, he went on a rant about his feelings while recording the project and battling depression. He started by saying ”I wanna spill my heart on this app like this like this”, but you end up being more confused at the end of it all than at the start.
Understanding what Omah Lay talks about on Boy Alone proves to be a tough task. You would imagine that an “emotional” album would give the listeners access to the parts of your soul that you spill on the track, through the way words are used and feelings are conveyed. Unfortunately, we can only scratch the surface of these emotions. This is likely by design, but he just ends up sounding like an emotionally unstable bad boy whose communication skills could use some work. He’s perfected the art of sounding sad without actually providing any real depth to the things he says.
An attempted vulnerability is the album’s central theme, highlighted in the standout but self-deprecating “i’m a mess” in which Omah croons about a scatterbrained mind state and alcohol addictions. Having the theme and production intertwine ensures the project scores points for cohesiveness. Omah Lay is one of the few mood-based artists in the country and he displays a special talent for immersing his listeners in his sweet chaos.
While the music generally sounds pleasing, a lack of variety in production ultimately leaves a bland taste in the mouth. Each song sounds as if its major elements are simply swapped to give another genre. “how to luv” and “soso” provide some foil to the rest of the album, but in its entirety Boy Alone sounds like 14 parts of one long song. The repetitive nature of the project, and Omah Lay’s music as a whole, is highlighted on “purple song”. He basically recreates another version of his smash “Bad Influence”, with similar progressions and writing style. It is one of the more memorable tracks on the album, but you begin to wonder how many more “Bad Influence” remakes we can take.
Omah Lay is a great artist with an ability to make music that takes his listeners wherever he wants. Unfortunately, though, it would seem like he is currently out of ideas. There is a fine line between doing what works for you and turning one-track minded, and Boy Alone indicates that Omah Lay is leaning on the wrong side of the spectrum. That being said, let us not forget that this is his debut album, and there is plenty of room for improvement for the “understand” singer.