The rising star’s effortlessly sexy new album offers a startlingly modern take on the R&B coming out of Nigeria.
From the first moments of opening track “luv in a mosh pit,” EVERYTHING YOU HEARD IS TRUE—the effortlessly sexy new album from burgeoning Nigerian alt-pop artist/producer Odunsi (The Engine)—sweeps you up in bygone visions of nightlife partying and youthful indiscretions. The music conjures sweaty basement parties, awash in red neon lights and the heat of strangers all around, where life is only as important as the moment you’re in. It might seem cruel to reminisce over tightly packed clubs in the middle of a pandemic, but the crush of quarantine only enhances the album’s rosy, nostalgic glow.
The artist, born Bowofoluwa Olufisayo Odunsi in Lagos, Nigeria, first came onto the scene with his 2016 EP TIME OF OUR LIVES. On EVERYTHING YOU HEARD IS TRUE, the follow-up to his debut, 2018’s rare, he continues to distill his eclectic influences into something all his own. Mashing the singing voice of Ralph Tresvant or Frank Ocean with light Afrobeat influences and the sensibilities of Prince if he were a Soundcloud rapper, he has tapped into a startlingly modern take on the R&B coming out of Nigeria.
Odunsi sings with irresistible magnetism and confidence, and his lines have a repetitive, nursery-rhyme cadence. On “airplane mode,” he harmonizes in a gentle near-whisper, hopscotching through sweet club nothings like “Shawty don’t talk like I know ya/ Shawty don’t talk like I owe ya.” On “PDA!,” he borrows from Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” shouting “freaky Margiela ela ela eh eh” over bouncy synths. The record captures early love’s sweetness even as Odunsi’s lyrics veer explicitly into cynical machismo (on “airplane mode,” he sings: “You be playing games that I taught you, had to get money had to stunt on you”). The bitterness is leavened by the sweetness of the music, and by the overall mood of love-drunk melancholy. To play on a famous Straylight Run song, the theme seems to be Existentialism on Club Night.
At only seven short tracks, there’s very little wasted space or energy. The brevity contributes to the cohesion, allowing Odunsi to hold tightly onto the specific mood he sets. It’s a complete thought, and the vibe it conjures is vivid and glamorous enough to induce pangs. With such a short runtime, it leaves you wanting more, but at least it leaves you wanting.