By Chinonso Ihekire
Oxlade has a penchant for infectious melodies, and with “Eclipse”, he blinds you to not just his flaws, but the tension hanging around your walls as you listen once, and again.
The last time I saw an eclipse of the Sun was when I was around seven or eight years old. I remember it back then in primary school as the strangest afternoon I had ever experienced (at the time). Our school teacher then told everyone to duck under the tables; I’m sure she feared an alien invasion or something worse.
I don’t remember all the details, but I remember it being as cool as ever. I have not caught the feel of any other kind of eclipse since then…well, until yesterday and it was intriguing as ever. Forgive me for this, but this time I am talking about Oxlade’s recently-released EP dubbed Eclipse.
Born Ikuforiji Olaitan, Oxlade is one of the young thriving juggernauts of Nigeria’s new school of Afropop, bringing in a breath of fluidity and freshness to the country’s current musical milieu. “Away” is the track that earned him mainstream attention, but it is mostly on collaborations that the 2020 Headies Next Rated nominee has proved his mettle, putting in good shifts on songs like Basketmouth’s “Myself” (off the Yabasi album), Ice Prince’s “Kolo”, and Blaqbonez’ “Mamiwota”.
On Eclipse, Oxlade combines vocal dexterity and remarkable sound engineering to hand in an enjoyable body of work, taking things up a notch with not just a more confident strain of Alto (compared to last year’s effort) but with a more dynamic vocal pitch. There are those who argue that Oxlade is the prince of falsettos, and this record makes a strong case for that assertion.
Coublon plays the role of a perfect partner on this EP, with stellar sound production. The entire playlist is an Afropop buffet of groovy, relaxing sounds that also help provide room for Oxlade to deploy his full vocal range. From “More” (the record’s opener), to “Incomplete” (the track that closes out the record), the EP gives you a very exciting mid-tempo groove.
Another interesting highlight of Eclipse is that now we get to see Oxlade singing alone. While his debut EP O2 featured a number of collaborations, this record excitingly shows the Surulere-bred crooner in full strength as an artiste. It would have been nicer to gauge his artistry with a lengthier project, but this is remarkable nonetheless.
On this record, Oxlade proves that it is possible to create more with less. His use of colloquialism helps to bring the harmonies closer to home. At a time when almost every new school act is gunning for the global stage, with over-produced melodies that flow with a little too much finesse, Oxlade is quite confident in his original style, delivering catchy hooks in a manner similar to the music churned out by singers like Chike, CKay, and Omah Lay – brilliant composers who have mastered the art of staying original while conjuring good music.
However, it would seem that Oxlade is getting too complacent with his lyricism. While artistes reserve the right to stay in their comfort zones, Oxlade makes you wonder if he actually puts in his A-game in his songwriting. From its lack of imagery to the use of very random expressions, the penmanship on this record feels weak, but that doesn’t mean that there are no light-bulb moments: “What shall it profit a man/ to gain the world and lose a jewel like you?” is a lyric off “Pay Me” (the EP’s penultimate track) that hints at decent writing effort.
If there is one thing you would take away from this EP, it’s the fact that love songs are here to stay. These ballads have always been around, but Oxlade and his contemporaries are raising the bar, making sure that Nigerian love songs are not just good for the ears, but for pubs and concert venues too.
Ultimately, Eclipse holds out Oxlade as quite the charmer. It shows Oxlade’s fine mastery of his vocalisation, from his cadence to his pitches, and everything in the mix. The brevity of the record is a double-edged sword; it leaves audiences yearning for more music from Oxlade, but it puts pressure on him to release a full-length album before long. In any case, this EP is a statement of intent: Oxlade’s career run is a marathon, and not a sprint.