Beyonce and Wizkid

Yinka Olatunbosun

By now, “Brown Skin Girl” needs no elaborate introduction. It is one of brilliant tracks from Beyonce’s curated album, The Gift for the 2019 Drama/ Adventure movie, The Lion King. Many critics couldn’t help but draw a parallel with Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther album. Beyonce, well respected for her outstanding vocal and stage performances, is a deeply artistic and philosophical musician. Like pizza, her work is better taken in bits and slices to relish the taste of every ingredient. The stellar artist had graduated from making pop anthems (“Irreplaceable”, “Hallo”, “Single Ladies”) to making a whole critic’s dish (“Lemonade”) and at this point in her career, being the most nominated woman in the history of Grammy awards and winning 23 Grammys, she doesn’t need anyone’s validation.

For many successful artists, reaching a peak in the music career can be daunting. But, Beyonce has kept evolving and refining her music, not confining herself to the cloak of the urban contemporary, pop and hip-hop genres where she has conquered for decades. Bringing on talents from different parts of Africa to work on her latest music project is not a surprise. Over the past three decades, Queen Bee had spread the love of good music to the top influencers of popular music such as Wyclef Jean, Lady Gaga, Sean Paul, Shakira and many more. It’s no secret that she loves Afrobeat; drawing upon it for her phenomenal Coachella performance and her songs such as, “Crazy in Love,’’ and “Who Runs the World?”.

With her eyes on music from Africa, she selected top musicians from South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria for The Gift Album. “Brown Skin Girl” becomes an instant hit, or better still a talk of the town for many reasons. One is that the track features Wizkid, Nigeria and indeed Africa’s beloved Afrobeats artist known for hits like “Ojuelegba’’, “Tease Me’’, “Jaiye Jaiye’’ and “Joy” amongst others. Another reason is that the track is one of the easiest to sing-along with its catchy hook that celebrates négritude.

“Brown Skin Girl” which features Saint JHN is a reminder of who Beyonce is, a true African at heart. Proud of her heritage, she has written and sung this song with an immeasurable quantity of emotion. Suddenly, Brown Skin girls in reality have a renewed sense of beauty. That dancehall vibe running through Wizkid’s DNA shone through his vocal delivery and Blue Ivy Carter, Beyonce’s daughter turning up as the opening and closing act on the track has received critical acclaim. Right now, the song has triggered the #BrownSkinChallenge.

It is a privilege to have Wizkid on this history-defining song. However, judging the production of this collaborative track, it was as though Wizkid was simply singing according to script, not experimental with adlibs, somewhat subdued by the powerful voice of Queen Bee. His performance was great in the lead verse but ended up as a routine subsequently. Perhaps, that is why some misjudged the song as being overhyped. It isn’t. Wizkid just didn’t display as much vocal rigour as Beyonce.

It is unlike any earth-shaking collabo that we love – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ Endless Love, James Ingram and Patti Austin’s Baby Come to Me, Alicia Keys and Usher’s My Boo, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey’s One Sweet Day, Sean Paul and Keyshia Cole’s Give it Up to Me and many more.

That said, “Brown Skin Girl” is a cultural necessity. It is common knowledge that skin bleaching had taken over popular culture. Even our own African artists have promoted light-skinned vixens in their music videos. Event planners will likely pick a fair-skinned lady as an usher than a dark skinned one. The prejudice against the black skin is global.But the story is gradually changing. Sauti Sol’s “Melanin” and Indie Arie’s “Brown Skin” were contemporary precursors to this black skin movement in music. And will we ever forget Tuface Idibia’s “African Queen”? That award-winning song was the first home-made Nigerian song to be used as Hollywood movie soundtrack. It couldn’t have been a bad idea to collaborate with Tubaba on this Gift album.

As regards winning Grammys with this song, that really depends on the other songs in the categories that it may fall. But this kind of collaborative project is what can easily pave way to another African musician winning at the Grammys. But Nigerian artists need more vocal rigour to beat other African counterparts to this feat.