While he has enjoyed incredible success and reached a level many artists might never attain, Joeboy has consistently maintained a quiet personality.
Joeboy rarely talks about his commercial success in an industry where numbers shape perception. He didn’t bother to cultivate a community that took a name for themselves and defended his honour nor was he involved in controversies as is common with artists at his level. Even when the biggest artist in the world allegedly ripped off his song, he barely uttered a word.
His reticence and humility have been conveniently misinterpreted as a lack of success by misguided fans and when he spent 2022 experimenting, he was adjudged to have fallen off the pecking order.
With such needless doubt of his capacity, Joeboy had his work cut out as his upcoming sophomore album had to deliver a high-level status reset.
2022 was a mixed year for Joeboy, especially by his lofty standards. However, even when he experimented with his sound in a year that was his least commercial since making his debut, he still delivered one of Afropop’s greatest records in ‘Contour’. The sensational record displayed his ability to lean into his identity and deliver a deep cut that would invariably chart the course for his sophomore album.
Aside from his reticence and humility, another noticeable common denominator is his lover-boy leanings. Joeboy is an artist who doesn’t hesitate to wear his heart on his sleeve, and exploring this romantic side birthed some of the best songs in the modern era of Afropop.
It’s this romantic side that Joeboy embraces in his sophomore album ‘Body & Soul’ where he creates a soothing body of work that boldly steps aside from the toxic love that’s becoming the dominant theme in the industry.
‘Body & Soul’ and ‘Duffel Bag’ offered insights into his artistic direction, and he balanced the lover boy persona with that of a generous spender. These releases were punctuated by international collaborations with South African superstar Master KG and international hitmakers Major Lazer which captures a mindset to take up a more prominent position in the international scene.
An offering of the Body & Soul
Now, positioning oneself as a lover boy is one thing, being able to back it up with quality records is a whole different story. And it’s Joeboy’s ability to consistently operate at the highest artistic level while retaining a dominant theme that makes him a special talent.
‘Body & Soul’ packed 15 records that cut across Pop, R&B, and Highlife while also reaching out to listeners across to listeners with different tastes and leanings.
He opens the album on a celebratory note thanking a higher power for his success while not hesitating to flaunt the accompanying. He pairs up well with Afrobeats chorus master BNXN and multi-talented rapper Odumodu Blvck who brings diversity and balance.
His lover-boy persona shines through the album. In ‘Body & Soul’ he offers undying love that comes with a good time and in ‘Check My Phone’ he declares his commitment despite vast resources to explore unlimited options. The choice to open his heart and his wallet as he did in ‘Duffel Bag’ and the Highlife blend ‘Wetin Be Love’ is a very becoming of an artist that told this writer he has spent upward of 50 million naira on his girlfriend.
The hopeless romantic in him combine with the sweet tongue Yoruba demon deposited within for ‘Woman’ where he combines with Oxlade who offered a moment of Afrobeats heritage by interpolating Rufftop MC‘s classic record ‘Lagimo’.
He undertakes to go to war for a lover’s interest while holding himself up as a better option on the Pop record ‘Better’ which has one of the best delivery on the album. He speaks Yoruba for an extended period on ‘Chicken, Spice, and Curry’ where Ludacris drops a verse for an international record.
Haven displayed the hopeless romantic, the sweet boy, and a bit of the Yoruba demon side, Joeboy complete the lover boy chart with ‘Slowly’ where he delivered a smooth stimulating R&B record that ranks high on the album.
Across the album, Joeboy captures the essence of body & soul as he leans toward his emotions and desires. Even while he offers undying love from the depth of his soul and shares the urgency of his desires, he doesn’t hesitate to get personal and address his demons as he did in ‘Alcohol’. And It’s on this sober note that he closes off the album with ‘Halle’ where he again turns to a higher power to guide his path.
Balancing Mainstreams elements to Achieve Identity
The Afrobeats soundscape has been significantly shaped by Amapiano since Joeboy scored his last major hit in ‘Alcohol.’
After spending 2022 experimenting with Pop and Dancehall which resulted in the forgettable record ‘Likkle Riddim’, it became abundantly clear that he needed to strike a balance between identity and mainstream appeal.
Joeboy was able to achieve this balance by working with skilled producers who were able to delicately infuse log drums into his Pop records. ‘Body & Soul,’ ‘Lose Ya’, and ‘Duffel Bag’ all have infusions of log drums that provides sonic familiarity while retaining Pop appeal. This was also replicated on ‘Woman’ where Yung Willis delivers a more party-starting Amapiano production on which Joeboy lays infectious melody for Pop appeal.
BNXN and Odumodu Blvck are two of the hottest artists currently operating in the industry and their appearance increases the mainstream appeal. The choices of collaborators were also tailored to achieve sonic coherence with ‘Wetin Be Love’ standing out for its Highlife & R&B blend that packs sonic appeal that perfectly sets it for a Francophone remix. I find it irresistible, the thought of having someone like Aya Nakamura on the record.
Oli Ekun‘s contribution was nicely placed to increase the mainstream appeal, and the tale of his notorious philandering is an enjoyable interlude to split the listening experience.
Even when Joeboy steps away from Afrobeats to make House music on ‘The Best For You’ featuring Kemena, Joeboy’s identity shines through his melodies. The same thing applies in ‘Chicken Spice and Curry’ feat Ludacris, his singing is what makes the song enjoyable and while the single doesn’t appear like it would be scratching beyond the surface internationally, it serves the purpose of getting him in the mood for future efforts.
Overall, Joeboy was able to take the sticky elements of his music and incorporate them with mainstream elements for a balanced project.
In terms of track arrangement, I think ‘Better’ and ‘Slowly’ should have been in the opening 6 songs as they’re two of the best tracks on the album.
The production elevates the project as the producers were able to curate a solid Afropop project that fuses R&B, Highlife, House, and Amapiano for depth, variety, and commercial appeal. Tempoe‘s productions on ‘Better’ and ‘Contour’ shows why he’s one of the best producers in the continent. Dëra‘s production on ‘Slowly’ and BeatsByTimmy‘s effort on ‘Halle’ also stand out.
Overall, ‘Body & Soul’ achieves impressive sonic and thematic coherence which makes for a comprehensive and enjoyable listening experience. The quality of the composition and the artistic approach to the project makes it so far the best Nigerian album of 2023.
Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.6/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.7/2
Read the full article here