Timeless is a testament to Davido’s growth and development as an artist. Every element of his artisrty is operating on a level that displays refinement and improvement over his storied career…
By Emmanuel Daraloye & Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
The streets missed Davido. Scrap that. The world missed him: the sneaky bloggers, the fans, even his foes. We all missed the self-acclaimed Omo Baba Olowo. The world was relieved to finally have his fourth studio album, Timeless; completing the trilogy with his last two albums, A Good Time and A Better Time.
Months after the demise of his young son and his social media break, the release of this new album serves as a super return, quenching the thirst of his fans while simultaneously constituting a return to normalcy for the superstar.
Timeless, his first album since 2020, is a staggering seventeen track album, featuring ten collaborators, with an array of new school producers helming the project: Magicsticks, Rage, Darmie, Blaise Beatz, 1da Banton, Caltonic SA, Young Alpha and others.
On the 3D art cover, an image of Davido’s head is shown with two enclosed elephants separated by a path that leads to a large hourglass. This cover art conveys a powerful mix of feelings, portraying grandiosity, courage, strength, and a focus on a journey towards a better future; a testament to where Davido is heading.
A shimmering saxophone leads the way for the opener, “Over Dem,” a triumphant track, addressing his tribulations since the last album. Davido has a tradition of being confrontational on his opening tracks, from “All of You,” off the Omo Baba Olowo album, to “Intro,” on A Good Time, and the recent “FEM,” off his A Better Time album. He keeps up the tradition with “Over Dem.” After months being away, he shows the fans and foes alike the reason he remains number one. While the track is built on a victorious confidence, it is also balanced by a sense of vulnerability that rounds the song wonderfully.
The album kicks into full throttle when “Feel” comes up. A boisterous shaker meets a sneaky Amapiano log drum on this song as Davido takes the listeners to the club with this energetic effort. Backup vocals fill up the soundscape, adding a depth and aura to the refrain. The production is smooth and warm, and is given time to shine as the song ends, allowing the listener to bask in its richness.
“In the Garrden” is the formal introduction of Morravey, the new signing to Davido Music Worldwide (DMW 2.0). She gives a good account of herself with sultry vocals, impressive writing, and evident singing technique. Her vocal similarity with Mavin Records’ Ayra Starr has been mentioned, but there is enough here to set her apart as her career takes off. “In the Garden” itself is a romantic song built on guitar riffs supported by Amapiano elements. Davido brings his rich repertoire of experience to bear as he effortlessly complements Morravey with a tempered, mature delivery.
Davido’s years of hard work and craft seem to be paying off. No doubt, you can feel the level of seriousness devoted to this album, and for the first time, it seems he has made an album for himself rather than for collaborators. He’s all in, telling personal stories and expressing himself, allowing the features to support him and his endeavour. So it makes sense when he calls himself “Godfather.” He gives all the glory to God, acknowledging the grace and blessings that have made him the man he is. He also renders a note of warning to troublemakers: “I no dey joke with my peace of mind.”
The Magicsticks- and Rage-produced “Unavailable” is a tightly-controlled, message-filled, highly danceable club tune. The Amapiano elements stand out and Davido rides the vibe excellently, delivering a simple but catchy hook backed up by group vocals. South Africa-based artist, Musa Keys, makes a mark with a stunning forty-second-long verse that might instantly put him on the map as a superb collaborator.
Then comes the Dexta Daps-assisted “BOP,” which sees Davido leaning slightly into Dancehall stylings with his bouncy delivery over a lively snare-driven instrumental. It’s a bubbly tune with a subtle bassline that supplements the rhythmic deliveries of both artistes.
“E Pain Me” is a distant cousin to Fireboy’s “Afar,” off his Apollo album. “E Pain Me” features very strong melodic singing from Davido over a straightforward beat seemingly inspired by the Ghanaian flavour of Afropop, built on a simple bass and steady 3-2 percussions. This association is strengthened by chants of the Ghanaian exclamation, “Ajei.” The lyrics paint a picture of romantic betrayal, and is one of the topically low moments on this album as he talks about a girl who left him.
“Away” begins with expressive pianos before the Amapiano shakers and synths jump into the fray. Davido’s singing over the album is pleasantly surprising as he hits beautiful notes and lays down backing vocals that lift this positive track to new heights as he prays for the good things of life.
“Precision” revisits Dancehall influences with its pulsing drum patterns and Davido’s delivery. This song tells the tale of the kind of focus, precision, and qualities that lead a talent like Davido to such heights. Success here is hinged on preserving one’s energy and being wise with time where necessary.
“Kante” comes in with a more laid-back energy, standing on off-beat chords, rich saxophone accents and hip-swaying Afro drums. Fave makes the most of her feature, anchoring the song exceptionally with a moving chorus that sets the romantic mood. Davido matches her energy effortlessly, making the bold move of interpolating his own song to wonderful effect. Together, they display amazing sonic chemistry, trading lines and harmonising back and forth with each other.
“Na Money” follows this up with a delightful Highlife sound, as is expected when you see that The Cavemen. are featured. Their signature bounce and falsetto set the pace over rhythmic percussion and summery guitars. Davido settles into the Highlife pocket expertly, displaying his versatility and experience as a music maker. The song exemplifies the power of money on romantic interests and friends alike. Just as you settle into the song, legendary Grammy-award regular, Angélique Kidjo, lends her pedigree to the song with a brief but affecting contribution before the song ends with titillating ululations.
“U (Juju)” features UK-based veteran, Skepta, who does his thing with a braggadocious verse that manages to also be very loving and ends in a surprisingly well-sung passage. Davido sings his heart out to his lover about just how deeply he is under her spell. However, this song is not particularly spell-binding. The instrumental lets it down, with basic Afroswing drums and chords that don’t always seem to properly underscore the melodies being sung.
“No Competition” raises the bar again by demonstrating just how versatile and talented Asake really is. He brings a sweetness in his delivery that sells the story of how unmatched the lover in question is. The lyrics from both artists come across as so genuine and honest because of how soft and emotive the deliveries are. Asake expertly rides a vibe that is different from his typical, being built on strummed guitars, rumbling basses, and simple percussive Afropop drums. The icing on the cake is the way group vocals and harmonies are employed across the track, granting it an angelic depth, and emphasising the sweet sentiments of the song.
Like Morravey earlier, another new DMW signee makes their debut on this album. “Picasso” presents Logos Olori and his admittedly Wizkid-esque delivery over this midtempo Afrofusion effort. While he doesn’t do much by way of lyrics, he displays an undeniable ability to vibe on a beat, smoothly doing his thing over the off-kilter drums, jazzy keys and guitar chords, sax accents, and bubbly bass of the Rage-produced beat. Davido anchors the track with laid-back energy, allowing Logos Olori space to flex but jumping in periodically with a spacious cadence.
“For the Road,” a brief emotional jaunt over an interesting instrumental courtesy of Blaisebeats, consists of a central bass synth that underlines a simple drum pattern, soft keys, emotional strings, and sparkling piano accents. Davido comes in with sweet lyrics requesting the continued love of his person, resting his melodies in his lower register that lends the song a sense of humility. There is a certain restraint in a lot of the deliveries across the album that just seems to inject sincerity and honesty into the songs.
The penultimate track is “LCND” or Legends Can Never Die. Although the beat bounces along energetically, you can hear that Davido tackles a heavier subject matter over adequately somber strings and pads. He alludes to the passage of people and time, as well as certain hardships in his life, fortifying his resolve to make the most of his life while he is here. The song evokes powerful emotion that demonstrates Davido’s innate ability to connect to listeners’ emotions through his art. The song ends with the sounds of children playing in the background. An understanding of the context of his recent loss makes this an increasingly touching addition.
When the tears of “LCND” dry, you can move to the final track, “Champion Sound.” Though the song was previously released as a very successful single, its position in the album tracklist lends it a new meaning through context. After speaking on hardship, growth, loss, love, pain, and gain over the course of the album, this song closes on a victorious and celebratory note, proclaiming Davido a champion despite whatever he might face. The song retroactively ties into themes addressed in the album as well as ending with Amapiano, which was also explored to various degrees in other songs.
Timeless is a marvelous success on so many different levels. The timing of the album’s release cannot be separated from its context which is the recent tragedy in Davido’s personal life, and his subsequent withdrawal from the public eye. His fans, supporters, and the world at large have been rooting for him and his success. This album marked his long-awaited return and was met with rapturous aplomb. This welcoming response from fans means that commercially, the album has also been a massive success. 16 of the 17 songs are on the music charts in various markets all over the world, and are taking public discourse by storm. Needless to say, music fans worldwide were prepared to be present for Davido as he returned from taking personal time and space. This covers the social and commercial angle.
Artistically, Timeless completes a trilogy of albums that have been received with mixed responses from fans and critics alike. There was an unspoken expectation for the bar to be raised, both in isolation, and as a response to the personal context. And while Davido did not pull an Adele and pour his personal pain all over the album, there is an undeniable sense of maturation and growth in every facet of this album’s construction.
We refer here the evolution of Davido’s record label DMW looks set to rise to the forefront of the Nigerian music industry with a renewed focus on business operations and talent development. Record labels are uniquely positioned to operate as an incubator for young talent, launching them into economic and artistic viability. The first steps towards that new direction have been taken here with Logos Olori, and Morravey. Davido also uses the opportunity to highlight budding talents like the new producers and featured artists all over the project.
Timeless is a testament to Davido’s growth and development as an artist. Every element of his artistry is operating on a level that displays refinement and improvement over his storied career. Davido has beaten the “frog voice” allegations with vastly improved singing. All over Timeless, there are instances of Davido doing new things with his voice; from going toe-to-toe duetting with Fave on “Kante,” to laid-back lower register sultry tones in “For The Road.” Davido was never earmarked to be a breathtaking vocalist, but the effort and consistent input is evident in his singing. Similarly, Davido was never one to write an epistle or tell winding stories in his lyrics, but he has always had a reputation for knowing what connects with the people.
Davido is a hit-writer, and that skill shines through on this album as well. He has a certain x-factor in his ability to pen simple relatable and catchy lyrics that will burn themselves into our minds, such as the hooks of “Unavailable” and “LCND.” This ability has even been upgraded with a newfound vulnerability and honesty which shines through in his delivery as well as his lyrics. His delivery has been toned down and reined in in a way that trades in some of his loud hype-man party energy for a hint of genuine openness and communicative self-expression. Even the love songs, which are a Davido staple sound a bit more personal and intimate with this new attitude.
Technically, Timeless is supremely assembled. Despite the instrumental on “U (Juju)” that didn’t quite cut it for me, the production across the board is exemplary. Amapiano elements don’t overwhelm Davido’s Afropop sensibilities. There are ample inflections from other genres including Dancehall and R&B. The instrumentals are loud and powerful where they need to be, and are soft and sensuous where necessary. The roster of featured artists shows an understanding of what each track is designed to portray, and each artiste delivers impeccably. The engineering is almost spotless, bringing a clarity and fullness to the songs that amplify the creative input of the artists. Highlights of this are visible in the swelling emotions and layered vocals across “LCND,” “No Competition,” “In the Garden,” and “Kante.”
All these elements combine to make Timeless one of the most accomplished releases of Davido’s stellar career. Removed from its context, it is an artistic juggernaut that represents the power of legacy and experience in a creative field. Combined with its context, it is a triumph for David Adeleke the human being, Davido the artiste, DMW the entity, and all of us who appreciate music.
Lyricism – 1.5
Tracklisting – 1.5
Sound Engineering – 1.8
Vocalisation – 1.7
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 8/10
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s Most Prolific Freelance Music Critic. He has over 500 album reviews in his archive.
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.