Album review: Wande Coal’s Wanted is red hot, then ice cold

by Wilfred Okiche

 

Six years after the release of the hugely successful debut album Mushin 2 MoHits, singer Wande Coal arrives with the hotly anticipated follow up. Mushin 2 Mohits landed at a time the industry was hungry for as many bright stars as could fill up the firmament. Wande Coal, then affiliated with Mo’Hits, the trendiest record label emerged as the more talented, less showy but no less vital alternative to D’Banj’s red hot leading man.

Mr Coal’s debut was assembled and released at a time when the Mo’Hits principal trio (Coal, D’Banj and producer Don Jazzy) were firing individually and collectively at the peak of their powers. But you know the story of how that panned out. A follow up for Mr Coal was pushed back indefinitely. Kanye West came knocking, and so did the possibility of international exposure. It was all too much to deal with. D’Banj left. Mo’Hits disintegrated. Mavin was activated. Wande Coal left. Don Jazzy rebounded with the Supreme Mavin Dynasty. Wande Coal attempts the same with Wanted.

Most who came to this review just want a simple question answered anyway, “Is Wanted worth the wait?”

Like most things artsy related, there is no straight forward answer. Wanted isn’t exactly the album die-hard fans of Wande Coal would have imagined from their idol; a perennially underachieving every man who was hustled out of his place in the Mavin empire. On its own, Wanted is a decent, if disjointed effort. But as a follow up to Mushin 2 MoHits, Wanted’s overlong tediousness denies these fans of Mr Coal the all-important bragging rights that should have kept them busy for the next six years. Or at least till whenever the self-acclaimed black diamond deems it fit to bless with another release.

The Nigerian idol starter park manual comes in handy for Wande Coal as he opens the record with Adura, in which his famous falsetto kicks in just before a chorus of thanks to God for the blessings of his life. It is almost blasphemous to hate on these kinds of songs. Cheesy at best and manipulative at worst, they are sure fire crowd pleasers that keep everyone in good spirits. Coal narrates a highly abridged version of his life story set to a jaunty, elastic beat by Sarz. The Sarz element; all slinky, recoiling synths and hard hitting bass lines returns elsewhere in the promotional single Ashimapeyin and on the remix to the album title.

If Adura is the warm up, then the Xela produced Superwoman is the main dish. Coal’s competent and emotion laden singing elevates the clichéd song writing being offered to something approaching international standards. By the time the juicy retro goodness of We ball comes in, there is hope that the Wande Coal of Mushin to Mohits is here to put an end to creeping doubts of his durability as an artiste. Same shit with South Africa’s AKA flags the energy a tad but the Legendary Beatz produced Monster lives up to its title.

Since he is forced to do without Don Jazzy’s dependable partnership, Wande Coal seeks for something close to that in the UK based Maleek Berry who has done some high profile work with Wizkid. Berry and Wande Coal work as well as can be expected (We ball, Weekend), but both artistes do not quite enjoy the unforced chemistry that Wande Coal shared with Don Jazzy. This feeling of still getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses is perhaps responsible for duds like African lady, another highlife concoction you know before even listening that you don’t need and Plenty love, a low key bore. But even these are forgivable compared to fillers like Jelly and the vacuous Wizkid duet titled Kpono. How these songs made their way into a project as important as this is anyone’s guess.

Of course by the time the record gets to Jelly (at track 17), it has clearly worn out its welcome, such that even the redeeming factors like My way, and Amorawa which are listed as bonus tracks do not elicit much interest beyond a fatigued nod of approval.

Mr Coal is such a gifted vocalist that he probably does not need the services of any other artiste to sell records. So it is no surprise that his addition of marquee names like Wizkid and 2face Idibia prove counter intuitive. Only Burna Boy on his two guest appearances registers as a significant presence. Rapper Falz outshines them all though with his own contribution, a tongue in cheek comic skit that isn’t afraid to roast Wande Coal’s sub prolific output.

Wanted as an album title indicates that the project is so hotly anticipated that its scalding arrival deserves to be printed on asbestos. But Mr Coal’s Wanted does not burn with that kind of white hot flame. It burns brightly, then flickers, misled by an improbable assurance that an audience is assured irrespective of quality of content.

This may well be for now as the goodwill from Mushin 2 Mohits and Wande’s compelling career arc have guaranteed this. But no one is going to wait an additional 6 years for another record like Wanted.

We can get it elsewhere.

 

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