The year in review is December 1, 2018 to November 31, 2019.
2019 has been funny and at times, incalculable in Nigerian music. In the final months of 2018, the old guard recharged and came out big, once again. To its credit, it quashed any talk that it was ‘slowing down.’
But by December 2018, Olamide released the very lukewarm YBNL Mafia Family album. It was a turning point – the album housed a string of new, obscure acts. Fireboy, the least heralded of that YBNL Nation bunch became its leader. ‘Jealous’ became an anthem and one of the biggest Nigerian songs of 2019.
In the same month, Burna Boy and Zlatan dropped ‘Killin Dem’ and Teni dropped ‘Uyo Meyo.’ In January, Olamide dropped ‘Woske’ and the hits factory dried up for the next three months in Nigerian music. We had a bunch of popular songs, but unlike the previous years, the mainstream lacked a song os genuine virality.
Songs we deemed ‘hit’ could be easily debated. Then, Rema came along and firmly instilled the growing notion that Nigerian music was witnessing a change of guard. By that time, Wizkid had not dropped anything and Davido was beating around the bush. But as the year progressed, people finally had a grasp of the soundscape and found hits.
This list celebrates the top 10 of those songs. The year in review is December 1, 2018 to November 31, 2019.
Here are the top 10 Nigerian songs of 2019;
Money by Soft
Reason With Me by Rudeboy
Pawon by Olamide
10. Billionaire by Teni
Date of release: October 11, 2019
On October 11, 2019, Nigerian singer, Teni released her debut project, an EP titled, Billionaire. It was a critical failure that made little to no impact on anything. However, the EP had a song titled, ‘Billionaire.’ On it, Teni revisited her tried and tested ‘Otedola, Adeleke and Dangote’ formulae and again, it worked.
The song went from barely getting noticed to subtly aggressive promotion. First, OAPs at Cool FM, Lagos were seen dancing to a song that documents the Nigerian wish for wealth in a native attires. Then, radio played the song on repeat and its video was made of ‘Nigerian mainstream.’ Shot by TG Omori, it stars Frank Edoho in a mock Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
9.) Baby by Joeboy
The boy was relatively obscure until people started catching up. Produced by Dera The Boy, the song crept up on Nigerians while they slept. It’s a love song about a man who seeks reassurance from his ‘Baby.’
Its vehicle into mainstream consciousness was its hilarious animated visualizer.
8.) Dumebi by Rema
Date of release: March 24, 2019
Rema is the boy who became a man. He is also the boy who smashed all the projections held for him by his record label, MAVIN/Jonzing. In three months, Rema became the new kid on the block. But first, he was the obscure boy singing with nasal melody of a Indian on ‘Iron Man’ – the lead single off Rema EP.
But everyone who listened to that EP realized that ‘Dumebi’ was going to be a hit while ‘Why’ was its best song. Those thoughts proved prophetic as Rema makes his way into superstardom.
7.) Blow My Mind by Davido featuring Chris Brown
Date of release: July 26, 2019
The first half of 2019 was dry for Davido. His songs meandered between tiny bridges of corny and ineffectual. His sophomore album was planned and he needed something groundbreaking. Burna Boy had just released a critically-acclaimed album and the hype was building.
Nonetheless, Davido braved it and dropped ‘Blow My Mind,’ a song which featured Chris Brown. The numbers went loco just as the reception. Build on a beat that borrows from afrobeats and EDM, the song became a hit almost immediately. Sadly, Chris Brown owned ‘Lower Body,’ which could have been a follow-up.
6.) Opotoyi by Naira Marley
Producer: DJ Leo Mix
Date of release: June 7, 2019
This was just after Naira Marley had been released on bail. He defied the expectations of many to live lowkey and ‘under the radar.’ What the rapper did was come out roaring with a song packed with vulgarity and lewdness, no less.
Its video is not something you want your children to watch, but for adults, it was tasty. On its own, Nigerians criticized the song and accused Naira Marley of misogyny – all these just helped the song blow further. Ladies and gentlemen, this song was a hit. But it is nothing compared to what came after.
5.) Jealous by Fireboy
Producer: Cracker Mallo
Date of release: December 16, 2018
This song practically rained uncontested as the biggest Nigerian song for close to three months. It made its way from being a sleeper hit to becoming a bonafide hit. Built on an R&B beat, laced with afrobeats percussion and insane vocalizations by Fireboy, it was a love song that captured the heart of many.
‘What If I Say’ might have been lukewarm, but the singer ended the year with a beautiful album, Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps.
4.) Uyo Meyo by Teni
Date of release: December 23, 2019
When Teniola Apata popularly know as Teni Makanaki graduated from University, she created a viral freestyle of herself. It was delivered in a mix of Yoruba and Ondo dialect. People urged her to drop the song immediately – she didn’t.
A few months down the line, she released the song as a follow-up to smash hit, ‘Case.’ This time, the beat had changed by the song remained the same – magic. It was sentimental, emotional and relatable.
3.) Fvck You by Kizz Daniel
Producer: Young Jonn
Date of release: March 14, 2019
Many forget this monstrous song was released in 2019. For some reason, Kizz Daniel did not release a video for this song – his loss. Upon release, the song gained notoriety for two things; ridiculous feminists who scream ‘men are scum’ at their exes of easy virtue accused Kizz Daniel of ‘slutshaming’ and many of the singer’s peers created their versions of the song.
The song literally went from a regular R&B song about lamentations in love to a cultural moment. For the next four weeks, Kizz Daniel was the most talked about Nigerian artist. If Nigeria ever had a version of Chris Brown’s ‘Deuces,’ it would be this song. In his own way, Kizz Daniel changed ‘Wash (love) songs’ forever in Nigerian music.
2.) Killin Dem by Burna Boy featuring Zlatan
Producer: Kel P
Date of release: December 28, 2019
A few weeks prior to this song’s release, Burna Boy was seen making his best efforts at what is presumed to be his maiden ‘zanku.’ He was in a hotel with Zlatan, Rahman Jago and a few others. A song was playing in the background – the rough version of what was to become ‘Killin Dem.’
At the time, Burna Boy had everything going for him. At the start of the year, he had Outside, a critically acclaimed album making the rounds. From it, he had a global phenomenon titled, ‘Ye.’ He didn’t stop there as he released ‘Gbona’ and ‘On The Low.’ But then, something was still missing; an eternal connection to the Nigerian mainstream.
Zlatan was on a roll at the time and Burna Boy identified him as his way into that demographic. The result was a song titled, ‘Killin Dem’ which merged shepeteri with tush. It was an instant hit. In some weird way, the song helped Zlatan expand his reach in Nigeria.
1.) Soapy by Naira Marley
Date of release: June 27, 2019
Guys, anybody with a cultural understanding knew what was going to happen once Naira Marley was released on bail. While he was incarcerated, his notoriety increased to breakneck levels and his fanbase had an identity. What came next was ‘Opotoyi’ before the most disruptive music in recent Nigerian music history dropped.
Its titled was ‘Soapy’ and contrary to early notions, the song is not harmful. The only problem in those early days was its use as an instrument of harassment by errant Marlians. On its own, the song is a socio-political chatter on life inside Nigerian prisons where grown men have to satisfy their sexual needs with intense masturbation
Although the song deviates into braggadocio, but its entire idea is gotten – Naira Marley became a superstar and the rest is history.