In 2017, when ‘Simisola’ dropped, music fans and critics who know the first thing about music could instantly tell the Nigerian music industry had a huge talent on its hands.
When Simi released ‘Simisola’ she was about 29 years old and her writing contained the confidence, class, emotions, and appeal of a bold young woman.
Her follow-up album ‘Omo Charlie Champagne’ was the start of an evolution into an artistic zone that captures her womanhood and maturity. The album wasn’t great and it might not have aged well but it was enjoyable.
Simi’s latest album, ‘To Be Honest’ is an extension of her sonic evolution which started from her last project ‘Restless EP.’
Listeners will expect her latest project to provide definitive clarity as to her artistic evolution but it doesn’t succeed much on this front. At 34, Simi might be looking to make an album that reflects her status as a confident woman, mother, and wife. Perhaps something similar to Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ which is an album about womanhood that retains unique elements of feminism, childhood memories, sexiness, and confidence.
‘To Be Honest’ however doesn’t offer much in terms of confidence, feminism, and sexiness. A neutral listener might find it to be more or less a collection of similar-sounding songs that drags on for 31 minutes. Simi fans, on the other hand, might find it to be a soothing playlist.
Simi opens up the album with a ‘Story Story’ which is a recollection of her journey so far. From struggling for studio sessions to jumping on Drake’s ‘Controlla’ all to achieve her goal. The writing is good and the delivery is great. It’s a great intro that settles listeners into the honest outlook Simi was employing for the album.
Simi started as a gospel artist and she still retains elements of her gospel days. ‘Born Again’ carries the spiritual essence of her faith and her superiority over forces and principality. ‘Born Again’ also displays how she and Adekunle Gold’s sound might intertwine and how they feed off each other’s talent. Her reggae flows and her delivery are strikingly similar to that of AG Baby.
To be honest, I don’t fancy ‘Naked Wire.’ I think the writing is weak and a bit childish. “You like my fire, my burning fire…You spark my wire, my naked wire” are lines whose weakness is hidden in a heavy beat instead of being laid out in a solo RnB performance. Simi’s delivery is flat and the song just sounds lifeless. The beat also didn’t help matters as it matches the flatlining vocals.
By the fourth single, neutral listeners might be getting bored of the album’s slow pace. ‘Loyal’ is a decent song mostly because Fave sounded assured in her vocals and delivery.
While it’s not for me to dictate how Simi should choose to use her husband on a song, I’m of the opinion that she misused Adekunle Gold on the ‘Balance.’ For a man who is currently in his artistic element and undergoing an impressive evolution as Bad Boy Deks, Simi could have selected a better song.
Topically, Simi could have gone for a more sultry and sophisticated in-your-face theme as Beyonce did on ‘Drunk in Love’ with her husband. This would have allowed her to display the sexy appeal of a married woman matching the raging sexual appeal her husband currently commands in the public sphere.
If sexiness wasn’t the goal, Simi could still have gone for a confident power couple theme as Bey and Jay did on ‘APESHIT.’ This would have allowed her to flaunt her sophistication, success, and obvious appeal which has brought her to the top of the game and with which she wows her man.
Instead, Simi chose to rhyme her entire verse with the chorus just like she did in ‘Naked Wire’ while casually singing about being in a comfortable place career-wise and her personal life. Adekunle Gold did okay with his verse. However, it’s a display of a disturbing sign of weakness in terms of content and it’s definitely not the Simi & Adekunle Gold collaboration most listeners would have been hoping for.
Simi is a mother and she wants this not to reflect even in her career hence her decision to feature her daughter Deja on a single. Beyonce sampled Blue Ivy’s crying on ‘Blue’ and DJ Khaled made his toddler an executive producer on ‘Grateful.’
In ‘Easy,’ Simi talks about her calm and patient approach to life. Haven became older and a parent, she perhaps sees life from a broader perspective and ‘Easy’ expresses her new easy approach to life.
‘Logba Logba,’ ‘No Joy’, and ‘Temper’ are not remarkable songs. They fit easily into sound sequence and blend easily into the album but they are equally easily forgettable both in content and delivery.
Simi ends the album on a note of gratitude with ‘Nobody.’ Her writing shows the influence of Highlife on her sound, The single also displays the older and motherly side of Simi who’s now a Nigerian mother who always has something to be grateful for.
We need to consider the album timing. The build up to the album was so ostensibly devoid of any significant buzz. Simi’s last three singles ‘Woman,’ ‘Sare,’ and ‘Naked Wire’ weren’t much of a success and they failed to build any sort of anticipation. This explains why ‘To Be Honest’ hasn’t really trended because it was released at a time when Simi’s music wasn’t simply popping.
‘To Be Honest,’ is an album I think neutral listeners will struggle to enjoy due to its sonic similarity and track arrangement.
In terms of enjoyability, the album maintains a similar tempo from start to finish. Although only 31 minutes long, it drags on and seems longer which makes it quite easy to get bored while waiting for the album to pick up the pace which it never did.
The album production, mixing, and sound engineering does about as much as Simi wanted it to do. There are times an up-tempo beat and a harder kick could have been employed especially in ‘Naked Wire’ and ‘Balance.’ However, the production is still on point.
Overall, ‘To Be Honest’ doesn’t break any new grounds. In terms of quality, all the songs appear to be at the same level which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. However, ‘To Be Honest,’ is strikingly Simi and that might be enough for some listeners.
Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.5/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1/2