Who currently wears the crown as queen of Nigeria’s pop music?
The women in Nigerian music bring a lot more than meets the eye. They make music with emotion, pouring their soul into records that entertain, uplift and serenade music lovers.
In Nigeria, being a woman in the music industry means one thing; you are judged by a different set of rules compared to your male counterparts. Where the art is the chief criterion for judging men in music, women are judged on a lot of variables and intangibles that add extra pressure to them. Beauty is a huge determinant of how successful a female artist can be, Carriage, behaviour and a lot more things are considered.That’s why women in music are precious. They go through a lot to succeed, and even when they do, they have to constantly work harder than their male colleagues to achieve similar success.
In Nigeria, we have an abundance of female talent. They’re everywhere from Lagos to Enugu, down to Port Harcourt. You could find them at shows, open mics, talent hunts, the creative waters of Soundcloud and more.
And as is the case with all markets, at the top of Nigerian pop music are a few women who are pushing the culture and attaining relevance via their music and artistry. These women have broken through the ranks of obscurity and pushed forward for commercial success and acceptance, powered by the music.
Like all pop culture rivalry that is generated by the media, the battle for the crown of Nigerian music truly exists only in the minds of fans, propagated by social media, and made real by the insistence of the artists to ignore the conversations, or sometimes, to stylishly avoid the question during press interviews and talk shows.
Why these rivalries come up is self-evident. The Nigerian music industry is male-dominated, with very few women rolling in the big time. Omawumi, Waje, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, and Seyi Shay used to be the “Big 5” in mainstream music. An argument for Cynthia Mogan could have been made, but she is too niche to properly lay a claim to the pop soundscape. Omawumi and Waje are seen as two of a kind, with very little designs on the pop crown.
Seyi Shay, well, she is regarded as a Tiwa Savage spin-off. But her inconsistency is what is driving her off.
So with the big five gone, we have new entrants who are pushing for the throne which are ‘Simi and Niniola’.
Simi is a special talent. Simi is an elite talent, one of that rare breed of artists who have the power to build a strong emotional connection via their art. The emotions she weaves through her records are contagious, spilling from earphones to heartstrings. And fans want more music.
It does feel like Simi has been around forever. Since she relaunched her career under X3M music in 2014, with the release of two singles – ‘Tiff’, ‘E no go funny’ – she has grown her music and her celebrity.
Using her paranormal vocals, and production which seeks to elevate it, she has ridden into many hearts. Away from the music, Simi is special because of the feelings she evokes in fans. Her petite figure, boyish charms, off the cuff humor, and her ability to throw herself into the engineering end of music, creates a potent combination, which fuses artistry, girl-next-door behaviour and crushing looks. She’s like the girl down the street that everyone loves because she has a smart mouth, kicks football and whoops asses on PS4.
It gets even better when you connect with the art. You crush on her and listen to her music, which makes the bond stronger three years is a long time since she first hit the radar under X3M Music.
In that time she has found a way to grow her music and her celebrity, by exploring her chemistry with Falz, while the public connects the dots between her and Adekunle Gold. It’s all coming together for her, with each new single, and an album is the logical culmination of her work so far.
We’re very lucky to have Simi. This is not because the X3M Music singer has established herself as Nigeria’s most soulful pop singer, but because she makes alternative music sound so good and democratized. Everyone with a heart can enjoy Simi, a quality that has played a role in her rise through the ranks.
Prior to 2014, this woman was seen as talented by music industry enthusiasts. She had a voice that was ethereal, but that wasn’t enough. But with the release of ‘Tiff’, she discovered that pairing that angelic vocal delivery with singing about love in the most soulful yet local melody can be a solid combination to approach dominance.
Simi has blessed Nigeria with numerous records after that, leading the way with her romantic heart, which creates dynamic art for everyone. She’s grown with every release, improved with each hook, and spun collaborations to her advantage by obliterating her hosts. She’s a brand, certified to be the provider-general of the good music army. Now we have her love-heavy, X3M Music debut, “Simisola” album.
Simi delivers on her promise of good music. She comes through with a project that fully captures all that she chooses to offer in her artistry; Love, vocals, songwriting, rhythm and A&R. In many ways, it is the best that Nigeria has seen in 2017.
It’s been three years since Niniola, a wide-eyed educationist, got into the studio with Sarz and created ‘Ibadi’. The single instantly became a hit and has served as the defining moment of her career. Niniola didn’t have the time to develop away from the glaring eyes of the media. That’s the downside of having success too early.
But she has stuck to her guns and created more singles to amplify what ‘Ibadi’ started. ‘Soke’ pushed her through 2016, and this year, she has grown in leaps and bounds with Maradona.
The song, an Afro-House creation, was produced by Sarz. Maradona is a song about a terrible womanizer whose girlfriend couldn’t deal with his bad boy antics anymore and decided to take a walk after finding out he had cheated on her with her friends.
“The inspiration of Maradona came to me while I was in the studio with Sarz making the beat,”Niniola. “Like all the other songs I always walk into the studio blank until I hear the beat. Once he was 50% done he played it and we vibed to it, and what kept on coming to my mind was Maradona.”
The song which came out slowly penetrated mainstream radio all across the country. The secret of Maradona is in its repetitive instrumentals and a baseline that is both immersive and calming. It can come on in the club to create a syrupy bridge during any supreme turn up, or it can provide soothing company during a road trip, or also can be enjoyed for its musical brilliance.
All of this success in pop music can be linear, but she has also created music that doesn’t subscribe to the House style.
“That’s why you hear songs like ‘Akara Oyibo’ (R&B), ‘Start all over’ (R&B), ‘Gbowode’ (traditional folk) my feature on Eddy Kenzo’s song and others. But then who wouldn’t like to own their own sound?” She asks.
Niniola has just announced the official release date for her album “This is me”
The ‘Maradona’ singer made the announcement via her Instagram page where she said the album is set to drop on the 3rd of November 2017.
She wrote: “As promised guys its finally here…I am excited about this project, 3 years ago it was IBADI… A lot of us have been waiting for this and it’s here now… NINIOLA “THIS IS ME” The Album drops on the 3rd of November 2017.
Niniola and Simi are pushing for the crown. But they aren’t there yet. Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade still hold on to their favourite positions, but they are closely followed by these two. Simi and Nini are part of the conversation right now, and they make up the ‘Big 4’ of the Nigerian music industry.
Tiwa still wears the crown, Yemi Alade is a worthy contender, Simi is working her way up, and Niniola is pushing for consolidation.