A Floundering Dream

Nancy Isime and Reminisce hosted The Headies

Vanessa Obioha

It’s so difficult to keep up with the erratic calendar of the Headies. The award which prides itself as a pioneer in recognising and rewarding talents in the music industry has undergone changes both in format and organisation such that there is no fixed time in the entertainment calendar for the awards.

When it kicked off in 2006, it was held in March till 2009 when the show initially known as Hip Hop World Awards held in May, and for the first time took place in Abuja. Just as fans were getting used to the new date, the organisers changed the date again to October in 2011. That year marked the first time the show will parade itself as The Headies.

Again, the Headies changed its date to December in 2013 and continued with that format till its 2015 edition held in January 1, 2016. It was earlier scheduled for October 2015. The December timetable returned for the 2016 edition but by 2018 (The Headies didn’t hold in 2017), the award was back to May. In 2019, the award returned to its October date for the fourth time.
Despite this dizzying time changes, the buzz and hype around the awards have not dwindled. It is always greeted with fanfare and is great fodder for entertainment pundits.

This year was no different. It was heralded by so much frenzy such that one expected a fantastic show.

But the reviews that have been pouring in since the event held last Saturday, October 19, have been anything but kind. They are acerbic.

With an incisive theme ‘Power of a Dream’, not a few expected the award ceremony to live up to expectations in terms of presentation. The Headies still a leader in its own right is famous for showbiz panache and flair. Who could forget its first nominees party which was held at a private beach resort. It was the first time an award will have a nominees party.

The setting of these parties have always been creative. Once the nominees were taken to a village and asked to dress in traditional attires. Another edition saw guests given a limousine ride to the venue.

Fans were however compensated on Saturday night with the red carpet drama from the dramatic outfit of socialite Pretty Mike to the arrival of Falz on a horse, a look attributed to the American rapper and singer Lil Nas X (will we see Falz delivering a Nigerian version of the rapper’s ‘Old Town Road’ like he did with Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’?).

None of that drama unfortunately was transferred to the main show. Done in quick succession as if it was running out of time, the show was a mix of drabness and sloppiness.

First, the hosts Nancy Isime and rapper Reminisce were an awful mix. Not only did they lack the professionalism and charisma to host a show of such pedigree, they were conspicuously astounded by the spotlight and made a bad job of it. Their chemistry was invisible and affected the way they interacted on stage to a point that they repeated their lines as if to jog the other’s memory.
They were however not the only matchup made by the organisers. The presenters too were an awkward mix and some of them earned the show a backlash, notably Rita Daniels, Nollywood actress and mother of the young actress Regina Daniels. Quite a number of fans expressed their displeasure over the woman’s presence at the awards on social media. Daniel’s mother has in the past been criticised for supporting her daughter’s marriage to Ned Nwoko, a wealthy polygamous politician who is very much older than her daughter.

Perhaps, the organisers choice to have the actress as a presenter was influenced by the need to create drama. After all, the awards was notorious for controversy usually caused by disgruntled musicians. The drama script also included the contestants of the just concluded reality TV show Big Brother Naija, particularly Tacha, the disqualified housemate from the ‘Pepper Dem’ season. The only presenters who did a good job were female DJ Cuppy and comedian Bovi. Their decision to come onstage with ice-cream and to say their lines simultaneously was creative even if it was a form of promotional for Cuppy’s latest single ‘Gelato’.

A critical part of the show was the absence of many of the big stars in the music industry who apparently won awards that night. While others have genuine reason for missing the ceremony such as prior engagement or fatherhood roles (Davido was in the hospital awaiting the birth of his son), others blatantly disregarded the show. To critics, it is a slap on the awards and showed that it is gradually losing its allure among fans.

Arguably, the absence of these superstars might affect the attendance of subsequent shows. However, the organisers can turn it in their favour if they play their cards well. A good place to start from is in its scripting. The Headies generally needs a revamp. It needs to come up with a good script that will make even the absentees bite their fingers in regret. Taking into consideration that shows of such magnitude require strong financial backing, a good script can however see the organisers smiling to the bank.
Though it managed to secure the backing of some big companies for its 13th edition, the business quid pro quo was not hidden. Take for instance, Burna Boy’s emergence as the winner of the Song of the Year category ‘Ye’. Even if the artiste deserved the award, one would have wondered the reactions of fans if another artiste won the award that was sponsored by Star Lager since Burna is the brand’s ambassador.

This questions the credibility of the award. It’s not the first time that the organisers choice of winners, particularly in the non-voting categories have been questioned. Take for instance, the Best Vocal Performance (Female), a non-voting category for the single female artiste with most outstanding vocal performances on a single song or album.

This year’s award was given to Teni for her song ‘Uyo Meyo’, a melancholic tune that celebrates the artiste’s rise to fame. That category boasts of other powerful vocalists like Waje and Falana. It seems the panel of judges reached the decision of the winner based on popularity than vocal strength.

The voting categories have not been spared either. There were objections to some of the categories winners, notably
the Best Street Hop category which is awarded to the singer whose songs are inspired by the street. For this year’s edition, the award was given to Chinko Ekun’s ‘Able God’ and not fan’s favourite ‘Zanku’ by Zlatan Ibile. The latter inspired a street dance craze. It is understandable for fans to see their favourite lose the award but since it is a voting category, their arguments will be baseless if they failed to vote.

Notwithstanding, Ayo Animashaun, the convener of the award must be commended for having brought his dream this far, even if it flounders at times. He should still be proud of setting the trail for others to follow.