2017 was the year of the new artistes. It was the year of new sounds and a shift from pure club bangers to more meaningful, well-written songs, something that has been lacking in Nigerian music for years now. This new wave was driven primarily by streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Soundcloud, and the increasingly advantageous social media. Mind you, most of these new artistes are not “new” in the pure sense of the word, they have been in this for years; some have been producing and releasing music for close to ten years now, but they are only just starting to get the recognition they deserve.
More of their songs are getting airplay without all the lobbying that used to be necessary. The more popular a song is on the Internet, the more likely it is to get on the radio. Also, the more popular a new artiste’s previous song is, the more likely they are to get on the front page of the Apple Music app.
That said, some of the already established names in the industry released quality songs this year, songs you can vibe to while applauding their songwriting. The quality of beats has improved significantly and more producers are experimenting with new sounds and styles.
Here are my top seven Nigerian songs of 2017.
“Poison,” by Lady Donli
Poison is my favourite Nigerian song of the year and it sits firmly on my list of top 10 songs for 2017. Lady Donli employs vocals on this song in ways I haven’t heard in any Nigerian song before. It’s not just the singing, it’s the background injections that accompany the instrumentals that impress me. Her voice is light and smooth over the beat like Irish Cream running down ice cubes in a glass, both complementing each other perfectly.
“Desire,” by Odunsi the Engine ft. Funbi and Tay Iwar
Odunsi the Engine, Funbi and Tay Iwar join their vocal forces to make this army of a song. Okay, okay, maybe I’m trying too hard to be poetic, but that’s how much I love the song. Plus, the beat is hypnotic almost and for a few minutes, I feel like I can sing too. I can’t, but who cares?
“Ravager’s Gambit,” by Kyrian Asher
“Man, like other meat-eating animals, is considerably addicted to ferocity. Unlike most carnivora, his ferocity is mainly directed against his own species.” This monologue precedes the solid bars delivered by Kyrian Asher, bars solemnly rolled out over a gently rising beat, his delivery demands your attention, and only in obliging do you come to appreciate the genius of his songwriting. Kyrian is a Nigerian rapper like no other, he is firmly in his own lane. And while he doesn’t get as much airplay, I like to think of him as Nigeria’s Kanye West, ahead of his time in more ways than we can imagine.
“Ponmile,” by Reminisce
This song is not what we’re used to hearing from Alaga Ibile. His style is not normally this soulful. In ‘Ponmile’, Reminisce declares his love for his lady, confessing that he would go as far as bathing in the sea or climbing an electricity pole so people can greet him “Well done, sir”. But he also begs her not to take his love for granted, telling her to let him know if she doesn’t love him anymore instead of going behind his back to cheat. In the video, he addresses domestic violence. ‘Ponmile’ is definitely one of the best productions of the year, well-written and well-delivered, a lovely song.
“FIA,” by Davido
Hands down the song of the year. You want to find out how big it is? Go to out in the streets and scream “Shuku shaker” and see how many people respond with “Aya shoemaker.” Also, it is one of Davido’s better-written songs. I could have gone corn ‘If’, but I’d rather put ‘FIA’ on my list.
“Up to You,” by Show Dem Camp ft. Funbi
Show Dem Camp’s “Palmwine Music” was the best mixtape or album released in Nigeria this year and ‘Up to You’ is my favourite song on that tape. It’s an amazing song to get drunk on palm wine to.
“Smile for Me,” Simi
Simi is the best female artiste in Nigeria right now. Her songwriting is the best, her voice is as unique as it is lovely, and she has a knack for picking the right beats. Her album, “Simisola”, was one of the best in Nigeria this year and so there’s a couple of songs that could be on this list — Joromi, Aimasiko, O Wa N’bę, Jamb Question, Tiff — but I’ll pick ‘Smile for Me’ because it’s my favourite song on the album.