Afropop singer and songwriter, Yemi Alade, confirms her new position as the leading female musician in Nigeria with the release of her Woman of Steel album, writes Ferdinand Ekechukwu
After months of expectation, Yemi Alade’s Woman of Steel album finally dropped a few days back. The Nigerian Afropop singer and songwriter, following months of social media drive with the hashtag #WOS, which she later revealed as ‘Woman of Steel’, had in May, announced the album after she released a remix to her single, ‘Oh My Gosh’ which featured American rapper, Rick Ross. This fourth studio album (her fifth project with an EP) was then made available for pre-order on August 21, 2019.
The 15-track Woman of Steel album, which comes just after her record-breaking musical feats and two features on Beyoncé Knowles “The Lion King: The Gift”, reaffirms Yemi’s top spot in the Nigerian music scene. The album not only represents a thematic shift for the artiste, but a personal one too. From Mama Africa, to King of Queens, now to Woman of Steel, Yemi’s new album is thoughtful of the tough appearance that she and most women are often required to wear in order to command the same level of respect as the men.
She’s quick to assert that exuding female strength is not simply about channeling typical male machismo: “Woman of Steel is all about drawing the inner strength that you have and being the superhero that you’ve always needed.”
Flaunting her versatility, Yemi Alade infuses a bunch of different sounds into Woman of Steel – reggae to R&B, to highlife and Afrobeat – opening the album with a sensual number, ‘Night and Day’.
Track list for Woman of Steel includes songs like Remind You, Give Dem, Vibe, Yeba, Criminal in Agbada, Lai Lai and Somto. The album features songs with Rick Ross, Duncan Mighty, Angelique Kidjo and Funke Akindele. The provocative Duncan Mighty duet ‘Shake’ among others, gives the album that unapologetic African tone expected from Yemi Alade.
Woman of Steel boasts a modern remake of Angelique Kidjo‘s classic ‘Wombo Lombo’ christened “Shekere”, with the legendary Beninese singer and multiple Grammy Award winner. Expectedly, the ‘King of Queens’ of Nigerian music, working with the undisputed ‘Queen of African’ music, Kidjo, did pull out a song good enough to be great for her album and crest her imprint on the record of African songs.
In ‘Home’ (which inspired self-produced short movie), Yemi promises to follow her love interest to the ends of the world. She sings about unrequited love on nobody, assuring her love interest that no one will love him the way she does. Diving deep into the African-highlife, Steel Alade links up with popular Nollywood star, Funke Akindele on the track ‘Poverty’, stressing that she is working really hard to be the richest possible version of herself while proclaiming prosperity and good health.
A decade ago, the singer made her debut as the first-ever winner of Nigeria’s Peak Talent Show. It marked the beginning of her musical career, but visibility came after she released her debut album, King of Queens in 2014. The album won Yemi the Best Female Artiste trophy at the MTV Africa Awards in 2015. She followed that up with 2016’s Mama Africa and 2017’s Black Magic, both standout in their own rights. ‘King of Queens’ had collaborations with seasoned musicians and sound engineers, that doctored the musical work to taste.
In King of Queens, Alade worked with producers such as Selebobo, Sizzle Pro, Philkeyz, Young D, GospelOnDeBeatz, OJB Jezreel, Fliptyce, and Beat Nation. The album was preceded by three singles: Johnny, Tangerine and Kissing. It featured guest appearances and skits from Bovi, R2Bees, Phyno, Chidinma. The deluxe edition of King of Queens followed and contained French versions (with Fally Ipupa) of songs originally performed in English.
She followed up her debut King of Queens with another acclaimed studio effort, Mama Africa in 2016, which met mixed reactions from fans and critics.
Yemi attempted to correct the flaws of ‘Mama Africa’ in ‘Mama Afrique’ EP, before releasing the 63-minute long 2017 project ‘Black Magic’, which served as her third studio album. Alade’s second studio album, Mama Africa, was supported by six singles: Na Gode, Do As I Do, Ferrari, Kom Kom, Africa and Tumbum.
The Yoruba-Igbo girl Yemi Eberechi Alade was born in Abia State, to James Alade and Helen Uzoma. Her father is of Yoruba descent, from Ondo State while her mother is of Igbo descent. Yemi is the fifth born of seven children. She studied geography at the University of Lagos and began her musical journey in an all-girl group named “Noty Spices” in 2005.
Her first single “Fimisile” was released under the Jus’ Kiddin’ label. Yemi then signed onto the music label, Effyzzie Music Group in 2012, and released her single Ghen Ghen Love. The following year, 2013, July, Yemi released the video for her Afro-R&B song “Bamboo”, produced by Fliptyce. The song became a popular wedding song and a moderate hit.
Her other single, Johnny, was leaked to the internet in the last quarter of 2013 and quickly it became an international hit in countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the United Kingdom, among others. At the time, it had no accompanying music video. She has also been featured on the covers of several magazines and performed around the world. In March 2014, Yemi teamed up with cinematographer Clarence Peters, to create a music video for Johnny, which was released to much critical acclaim.
At the moment (September 2019) the video has about 108 million views on Youtube. Johnny went on to become her breakout hit, catapulting her to African musical fame. With its catchy hook and cheeky lyrics about tracking down a flaky lover, the song caught on easily as a fun track that light-heartedly spoke from the ladies’ point of view – an answer to all the songs that already did so from a man’s perspective, namely Wizkid’s Caro.
Notably, Yemi joined M.I, Waje, Timi Dakolo, and Burna Boy in singing the theme song for Port Harcourt, the UNESCO 2014 World Book Capital, as part of a project urging young people to read and stay in school. She has continuously released songs that become instant hits and is considered one of the best musical stars from Africa.