Album Review: My Fairy Tales
Label: Bushqueen Music
Released: March 2 2015
In an industry where the mass appeal of sexually lurid content sweetened with catchy rhythms, powers sales and assures relevance, it is comes as no surprise that artists are constantly either watering down their craft for financial success, or mastering a working formula for longevity. Daringly, Nneka has always stood on the opposite side of this spectrum and her latest offering My Fairy Tales is no exception. Now, I will admit to have struggled to get into her previous album unlike her first that all but hypnotized me. With this in mind, I found myself somewhat nervous as I purchased my copy of My Fairy Tales for first listening. The packaging drew me in with a digitally altered photograph of Nneka meditating over a classic fairytale hardback, with a picture of Afro-beat legend Fela Kuti on the front cover and slaves in procession on the back. The inside jacket features paintings by Nneka herself to depict some of the themes addressed in the album. Needless to say, I already knew what to expect. I was not disappointed.
Opening with Believe System, which I found rather reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson strongly influenced by jazz, Nneka’s album holds promise of a sonic feast for our audio palate. Unfortunately, she dwells a bit too long on the reggae infusion. A personal disappointment as I particularly extol her music for its proven diversity with a wide range of sound from dance to rap.
Moving through the album, the second track Babylon is a groovy instrumental with an eighties retro feel complimented with bridges relatable with Michael Jackson’s Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’. The song scores high as a danceable tune, but still manages to draw attention to the poor socio-economic conditions in Africa. Easily a standout track.
Track 5 Local Champion kicked off with instrumentals that had me apprehensive, but only about thirty seconds in, I was quickly warming up to it. The rough ghetto sound had me thinking of it as an ‘Africanized’ Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock. High marks on my scorecard for this one too.
The seventh track Pray for You, my personal favorite on the album, though a close call with the aforementioned Local Champion, is a fast paced number with cadences so creatively aligned with the beat, it wouldn’t be out of place to say Nneka considered her voice an instrument on this song. Ironically, I still consider Local Champion to have a higher replay value, but sonically, Pray for You brings more excitement to my eardrums.
At nine tracks some may consider Nneka’s latest musical offering not quite the buffet we might have wanted after two years of silence. To that I say it is better to keep it trimmed healthy, than fat and fluffy. One too many times, good albums are ruined with either sonically non-compatible songs or favour-features for promotion. I am quite happy with the length of the album and would only add some skits for a sense of connectivity between songs that might sometimes seem too distant in concept to give a cohesive feel to the entire project.
All in all, I would define My Fairy Tales as the love child of an alternative Afro-pop, reggae, and jazz threesome. It showcases multiple styles in sweet symphony with Nneka’s signature pleasantly scratched voice and her usual socially conscious message on every track. If you haven’t given this a listen yet, you need to update your music player. My Fairy Tales in its entirety showcases the fruits of a commendable artistic effort from an undeniably talented musician.
First published in REVitUP! June/ July, 2015 issue
June 28, 2019