When Kanye West (YE) released his Album of the Year nominated project ‘Donda’ in 2021, it was to assert his place as a force and a leader in the scheme of things. This he confirmed to ‘Drink Champs’ where he narrated how A$AP Rocky was dressing better, Tyler the Creator was shooting better videos, Drake was putting out more records, and Kendrick Lamar had better bars. And For Kanye, ‘Donda’ was a reset button to remind everyone of his place in the Hip Hop scene.
For Davido, the motivating factor might differ but the need to assert himself is real and immediate. And it’s one of the purposes for which ‘Timeless’ is crafted. Since he released his third album in 2020 a lot has happened in the industry. Grammys have been won, platinum plaques have been earned, Afrobeats scored a global hit, and a newcomer dominated the year in unprecedented fashion.
This album is Davido’s way back into the conversation and nothing short of outright dominance will do. Just as Drake reminded everyone with ‘Her Loss’ while he likes to put out lots of records in which his superlative abilities often go missing amidst heavy commercialization, he’s capable of delivering a classic.
‘Timeless’ comes at a critical point when Davido is being eagerly awaited by fans who are now more closely tethered to him than they have ever been. The album is expected to satisfy the yearning of listeners who hope to use it as a pathway into his emotional and psychological standpoint.
Similarly, for Davido, the album is a much-needed insertion back into the big picture of an industry where a lot has happened in his absence. And while fans might have expected him to thread a more personal path, he quite predictably keeps it simple, fun, and remote.
Before the release of ‘Timeless’, May 2022 was the last time Davido released a single which is ‘Stand Strong’ which surprisingly doesn’t make the album cut. Its omission from the album and Davido’s decision not to release any lead single follows the paths of other international megastars who in the past 2 years have released albums with no lead singles. Drake (‘Certified Lover Boy’), Future (‘I Never Liked You’), Kendrick Lamar ‘Mr. Morae & The Big Steppers’), Tayor Swift (‘Midnights’) all dropped albums without a lead single.
These artists focus on a particular track while they allow the fans to choose their favorite single which then becomes the lead single. Immediately after the release of ‘CLB’, Drake focused on ‘Way 2 Sexy’, Future pushed ‘Wait For U’, and Kendrick Lamar focused on ‘N95’.
This same template coupled with a rare scarcity made Davido’s ‘Timeless’ the most anticipated Nigerian album in recent times. And just like the artists highlighted above, Davido has chosen to focus on the Amapiano club cut ‘Unavailable’ featuring South African fast-rising star Musa Keys.
From the roll-out, it was clear that Davido is exploring a different direction from his previous albums. The tracklist offered the first insight into the album’s artistic makeup. There was a notable absence of both local and international heavy hitters (bar for Asake) who were replaced by an exciting squad of emerging, fast-rising, and established stars with whose assistance Davido aimed to sonically uplift the project while also covering a wide base that is important for an artist of his profile.
In terms of sonic direction, Davido makes a concerted effort to deliver a sonically balanced album that deploys a dominant genre while exploring familiar ones for a more holistic project. This is quite different from his last two albums which had a chaotic rather individualistic sonic template.
‘Timeless’ primarily deploys Amapianpo which has grown bigger in reach and acceptance since Davido released his last album. He also explores Dancehall, Ragga, Konto, Highlife, and Afropop and he brings them all together by working with tested producers whose composition adds a much-needed sophistication to the project.
While Davido is ostensibly in search of a project that can stand the test of time and whose quality is less divisive, he retains key elements of his identity. His style, technique, approach, and thematic preoccupation remain the same.
Notedly, many would have wanted him to primarily explore loss, betrayal, pain, and the emotions of the events that unfolded in the past year. It’s logical, the expectation that such experiences would change him and it’s fair for fans and listeners to expect a manifestation of the same. However, across 17 tracks, Davido explores his journey, his status as a megastar, the feeling of a blossoming love union, and the general realities of an Afrobeats Rockster albeit banal. And when he does find time to discuss his feelings, it’s nothing but mere punctuation.
Listeners are launched straight into the fun fair with ‘Over Dem’ the mid-tempo rhythm aided with exotic horns on which he thumps his chest and alludes to the Biblical tale of David and Goliath. This braggadocio plays out across the album like in ‘Godfather’ where he declares himself as the head of the table while also undergoing introspection that inspires gratitude.
The party got on the way in track two with the Amapiano cut ‘Feel’ that pairs a party-starter beatpack with memorable lines for a single with a heavy commercial facing. This is the same for ‘Unavailable’ where he talks about his no-stress life and reinforces the recent scarcity that has made the hearts of fans grow fonder.
He retains the services of Rore for the love record ‘In The Garden’ where Log drums are blended with chords for a softer Amapiano record with which he introduces the new signee Morravey.
The Amapiano fiesta from tracks 2 – 5 is punctuated by a Dancehall record where he combines with Jamaican sensation Dexta Daps ‘Bop’ where Davido shows versatility. While the rhymes, melodies, and vibrant delivery make for an infectious rhythm that’s uplifted with Dexta’s Caribbean imprint, the music also sounds familiar, especially as Davido’s technique is similar to his flow pattern in ‘Risky’.
Davido takes a break from thumping his chest and sweet-tonguing pretty women to explore his pain in ‘E Pain Me’. While the title might have suggested a deeper discourse, listeners are let down at the realization that the song is an outburst at unrequited love. The song sticks out not for its simple Afrobeats arrangement but for its lyrical banality and simplistic delivery. And while some fans might appreciate its dated approach, others including this writer believe he should have outgrown this type sound.
Davido’s hitmaker profile is on full display in ‘Away’ where he testifies to be the King of “Gbedu” on a record made for the clubs. The verses, chorus, and Magicsticks‘ stellar production combine to make it one of the highlights.
The exploration of Ragga and Konto in ‘Precision’, ‘Kante’, and ‘For The Road’ delivered some goods.
“I dey try sort myself, you for try sort yourself,” he says in ‘Precision’ as he explores some individuality. And although Shizzi‘s production checks all the boxes, the song just doesn’t do much for listeners nor does its presence do much for the album.
Fave dug in for ‘Kante’ to deliver a stinging chorus that uplifts the record while Davido deeps into his folder to deliver timeless lines. Aside from bouncing effortlessly on Damie‘s remarkable beat, Fave achieves impressive artistry as she sprinkles her vocals beneath Davido’s. The choice of a globally famous footballer for the title is also strategic as it appeals across the board while possessing huge syncing potential.
‘For the Road’ deploys crowd vocals as Davido delivers a Konto rhthym that deploys timeless genre-appropriate vocabulary and technique. The single offers needed street cadence as Davido extends himself.
Artistic sophistication and sonic depth are added to the project with ‘Na Money’ and ‘No Competition’. The former is a 1da Banton-produced Highlife number that deploys the cultural essence of the music common to Nigeria’s palm-wine joints. The choice of Cavemen and Angelina Kidjo might come across as obvious proof of his intention and even maybe a template attempt at depth. However, their contributions achieve the purpose for which they were procured.
‘No Competition’ is a guaranteed stream source, especially in the album’s early days. The inclusion of Asake adds excitement and while the two hitmakers might have gone for a more commercial track, they deliver exquisitely on a tamer beat on which Davido extols his partner.
Davido caters to UK listeners with ‘Juju’ the Swing record on which he features the legendary Grime King Skepta who flows smoothly and joins him interpolating the famous lines of one of Africa’s rap King Ice Prince.
The slow burner ‘Picasso’ offers exotic instrumentals lifted by horns. And while the song that compares a woman’s body to a work of art might not offer much gratification, Logos Olori covers himself in glory as he displays an impressive that shows inspiration from one of Afrobeats’ greats.
Listeners who yearn for a reflective record would have to make do with the beautiful record ‘LCND’ where Davido was his calmest, most honest, and most emotional. The Young Willis-produced track sees him reflect on his personal loss while asking to be allowed to live the way he pleases. The emotions it evokes from listeners, the resounding proclamation of the timelessness of his craft, and the knowledge of the celestial presence of his lost loved ones would have offered an appropriate sobering curtain dropper.
In ‘Timeless’, Davido is assured of his abilities as he makes a notable effort to deliver an album that will stand the test of time.
While the album doesn’t offer a singular sonic pattern, it carries a dominant Amapiano theme which allows for an easy listen. In terms of production, ‘Timeless’ retains the services of producers whose work have shaped Afrobeats’ soundscape in the past 2 years. The production brings a much-needed comprehensiveness and sophistication to the album that was decidedly missing in his last project which had a communal creative input.
Although the album packs 17 tracks its 49 mins run time makes for an average time of 2.8 mins per track which makes it quite easy to run through. However, ‘E Pain Me’, ‘Precision’, and ‘Champion Sound’ could have been left out as their inclusion offers little.
It’s understandable that listeners expected artistic growth in the form of a more personal and emotional approach. And over the years, Davido has presented his art such that his profile is primarily built on being a hitmaker hence this affects the appreciation of his music as his songs are either hits or misses with very little room for in between.
However, what’s lacking in thematic depth is compensated for in a collection of songs that carries endearing familiarity and refinement. And the album boasts of 5 – 6 records that when serviced can become hit songs.
And although the album might not offer the unifying listening experience needed to agree on its quality, what can be agreed upon is that this is Davido’s most musically accomplished album yet.
Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.4/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.5/2