The year 2019 was, in its first flush, synonymous with the song “Jealous.” Played everywhere from outdoor parties to speakers within family homes, the Fireboy DML song was a true hit, popularizing his music among a new set of listeners.
Fireboy DML’s first listeners had been early visitors to his SoundCloud pages, mostly students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) where the artist graduated with a degree in English and Literature. A local celebrity, Adedamola’s later success and signing onto YBNL was greeted with aplomb, then came “Jealous,” and after months of preceding singles, there was Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, one of the great debut albums out of Nigeria in recent history.
Across LTG’s 13 tracks the artist let his poet tendencies wield the pen and when he sang, it was with the emotive power of a learned young man who had much to say. British act Passenger, Wande Coal or American Jon Bellion are his biggest contemporary influences and in his songs, you either hear the poignant lyricism associated with the first, or the soulfulness and melodies long flaunted by the Mushin icon; the third supplies what the first two does, but less so, and more interested in the exploration of sounds, what makes the music tick outside of just the lyrics being sung. On his best days, Fireboy DML is all three.
In the event of his second album APOLLO, which is coming some mere months after LTG, we highlight Fireboy DML’s ten best songs, whether album cuts or just singles. If it’s Fireboy in his element, you’re sure to find the record here.
LIKE I DO
There are many reasons why many revere this record, to my personal stance that it’s perhaps the greatest love song of its time. “Like I Do” features some of the most heart wrenching Fireboy lyrics, spun around the all too familiar scenario of young and lost love. It’s a record which sounds like something you’ve heard before, and even though you can’t place it, that refrain strongly echoes of Styl Plus and Wande Coal, artists who mastered the art of love records.
As a dance record, “Gbas Gbos” is a tad bit underated. Borrowing its title from social media parlance, Fireboy that makes it all come together with the song, a mild exploration of the polyrhythmic pon pon sound, but with much more adventurism in production and vocal delivery than its regular exponents typically care for. And if I tell you dance…
SING /w. Oxlade
Before Fireboy DML became the lithe figure on whom many girls projected their fantasies, he was just a young man with a song to sing, burning with passion. “Sing” was a collaboration with close friend Oxlade, both artists fusing their soulful voices and unique takes to deliver some of the most inspiring lyrics in both their discographies. Led by the searching piano, the success of “Sing” made it both an underground jewel and the artists’ first taste of mainstream love (especially for Oxlade), as it trended months after release and scored a fan in Afro Pop icon Davido.
The sex appeal of Fireboy DML is undeniable. It was first acknowledged in song on “King,” where he sang: Fine boy wey come sabi sing again… Tell me wetin you need again. On “Tattoo,” the artist pulls that x-rated card over the door of the studio session, setting a sonic landscape so heated the record immediately makes the impression as a sex playlist entry. Few will work their Pop credence into songs of this nature as well as Fireboy has, and due should be given to his immense talent for emotional nuance and songwriting.
WHAT IF I SAY
Not many consider this song a Fireboy classic. Maybe overall it isn’t, but on matters of style, it is arguably the most technical song by the artist. Its entire lyrics are a variant of a rhyme scheme, one Fireboy retains through two verses and effortlessly works into the deviant chorus.
It’s common knowledge that breakout songs are seldom a full demonstration of an artist’s scope. And while, in my opinion, “Jealous” pales in objective quality with most of the other songs on this list, as a breakout, it’s a pretty solid song. Today, a listen peels back the good old days (2020 makes it seem like five years ago) and we’re transported to nightclubs and fun hours indoors. Fireboy really did a thing with “Jealous.”
One of LTG’s strengths was the successful coexistence of soul baring songs and the faster paced records, crafted with dancefloor routines in mind. “Vibration” is one such song, and even in its lyrics, Fireboy encourages the frenzy of bodies to the music. On set of the TG Omori video –with articles borrowed from French, Latin, Indian and African cultures– this call to dance is captured beautifully in colored scenes and dance routines, the French ballet especially striking the eye.
I’ve seen Fireboy DML suggest that “King” was his favorite Fireboy DML record. Why not? It’s a beautiful rendition of a young man’s state, confident in his talents and looks and making a ballad out of it.
After opening his account of the year with “New York City Girl,” many people felt Fireboy DML was too suddenly disconnected from the indigenous edge that gave LTG its form. Soon “Eli” was released, a masterful stroke of a record featuring a flutey instrument set to smoky drums, as Fireboy DML sings of a sexy seductress aching to steal his soul.
“Need You” is such a beautiful record. Although quickly overtaken in popularity by the more party-ready records on LTG, its importance to that debut couldn’t be understated and that’s perhaps why it was the first song off the tape (except Jealous) to get a video. Building from a series of ethereal keys, Fireboy’s immaculate and sometimes funny (“you know I miss you..like an idiot misses the point”) songwriting builds along with the rising tempo of the production, which then falls to a pentecostal scattering of Pheelz’s drums, a performance which awes even in its final seconds with an airy violin infusion.
Pre-save Fireboy DML’s APOLLO