Body & Soul offers enjoyable tracks that are fun to listen to. It’s a familiar Joeboy experience that doesn’t do much new, but one that still meets the standards of enjoyment…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Joseph Akinwale Akinfenwa-Donus, better known as Joeboy was born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria and developed a passion for music at a young age, honing it in his church choir and a number of talent competitions. The singer-songwriter caught the eye of Mr. Eazi in 2017, and he was taken under the emPawa imprint, using the platform to release his Mr. Eazi-assisted single “Fààjí” in 2018. Then came his breakout single, “Baby,” in 2019, which garnered over 20 million streams across platforms. The 2019 follow-up single, “Beginning,” cemented Joeboy as a mainstay in the Nigerian Afrobeats scene.
He became well-known for his style which fuses Afropop with R&B, using catchy melodies, heartfelt lyrics and infectious rhythms to create relatable songs that resonate with his fans. This was exemplified on his breakthrough debut EP, Love& Light. After a slew of catchy singles, he released his debut album, Somewhere between Beauty & Magic, to decent critical acclaim and growing fan appreciation, fully establishing him as one of Afrobeats rising stars.
Two years removed from that encouraging debut, Joeboy has given us a new album to capture our hearts and ears. Body & Soul comes on the back of a recent sprinkling of singles that undoubtedly created a significant buzz around its impending release.
“Normally” sets the tone with its soft emotional keys and soulful pads, as Joeboy reflects on the specialness of his place in life. The BeatsByKo production is characterised by simplicity and light Afrobeat drums that create a soothing atmosphere for the sweet vocals of BNXN with lyrics like, “I say problem e no dey finish. Na why we dey burn trees dey shacky spirit, Remember when we no get you wouldn’t beliеve it, And I gat a couple friends to confirm thе lyrics. You wouldn’t believe it, Normal normal, e go surely better.” Odumodublvck rounds off the track with his raw, honest style.
Next is the E Kelly-produced title track, “Body & Soul,” which was previously released as a single. The song envelops listeners with its love-infused lyrics. Sweet guitar chords, a rich bassline, and an Amapiano-influenced groove provide the backdrop for Joeboy’s signature soft singing and layered harmonies, making it a delightful track.
“Check my Phone,” produced by Tytanium, explores the themes of faithfulness and transparency in relationships. Warm instrumental built on pads and strings are topped by extremely simple drums that do fall a bit flat in places. Joeboy’s song-writing proves strong on the track, providing relatable lyrics such as, “Ọmọ na flirt I dey flirt no dey vex, make you forgive me. If you still vex, I no send, I go flex you with 10 milli. No go dey judge me on top wetin you see for blog o. I understand if you want to leave or you wan go.” The deliveries he employs match the situations described and make for a compelling listening experience.
“Lose Ya,” is another E Kelly production built on rich strummed guitars, a lively bassline, simple percussive Afrobeat drums, and rattling shakers, and unnecessary Amapiano log drums. Joeboy augments his lovely melodies on this track with well-executed harmonies that also become a high-point of the song.
“Duffel Bag,” another previously released track, exudes braggadocious energy as Joeboy flaunts his wealth for a woman singing, “Free me, free me, e no easy, This tin plenty, je kin risi. Plenty money for my Piggy, Make I know when you wan see me, baby.” Lively vocals complement the rippling bass synth and midtempo Afrobeat drums, creating a fun and catchy track.
“Contour,” produced by Tempoe, takes a unique turn with its Salsa-esque rhythm, intricate intertwined guitar work, and subtle synth lines. Joeboy rides this unique instrumental with fittingly flexible cadences and deliveries, creating an ear-catching song that delves into the narrative of dealing with a shady individual.
The guitar-backed spoken interlude tells an entertaining point-of-view story in Yoruba-infused English. While the interlude is a humorous listen, it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really appear anywhere on the album again. While a left-field entry, it is a pleasantly funny interlude, and it seamlessly transitions into the next song, “Wetin Be Love,” featuring CKay. With lyrics like, “Cause back when I was broke. Zero love, Nobody love me, Nobody send me, Now I’m cute, Now I’m funny, Now I’m handsome and you want some, CauseWetin be love if the money no Dey, Wetin be love if the raba no Dey,” “Wetin Be Love” questions the existence of love without financial stability.
Simple strummed guitars, a basic Afrobeats 3-2 drum pattern, and straightforward melodies contribute to its smooth and thematically clear delivery.
Then we get “Woman,” produced by Yung Willis. This track embraces strong Amapiano vibes with its energetic up-tempo percussions, deep log drums, prominent shakers, and guitar riffs. Oxlade features on the song and utilises an interpolation of the classic song, “Lagimo” by Rooftop MC and Cobhams. While the interpolation adds a fun moment, the feature doesn’t bring too much new flavour as Oxlade’s verse blends into Joeboy’s stylistically.
“Chicken, Spice & Curry,” produced by Type A, livens up the album instrumentally with its energetic pianos, drums, and percussions. The addition of Ludacris brings that different flavour to the track, though his archetypal flow may wear out its welcome. Thankfully, the verse is too short for this to happen. The song ends up a typical party song. The title is odd though, even in context, as its use in the song doesn’t seem significant to the theme.
“Better,” produced by Tempoe, unfortunately falls short in terms of production quality. The instrumental sounds empty and discordant at times, with distracting synth sounds during the chorus, and its ending. Sparse keys and odd chords make Joeboy’s vocals sound a bit stranded. While Joeboy’s vocals remain decent as he sings about a woman who improves his life, the overall execution leaves much to be desired, and it is one of the weaker songs on the album.
“Sip (Alcohol),” needs no introduction, being a massive single ahead of the album, already boasting over 75 million streams on Spotify. The haunting and lonely atmosphere of the sparse Tempoe instrumental perfectly complements Joeboy’s emotionally-charged vocals as he sings “That’s why I sip my alcohol, I don’t wanna reason bad things no more. I don’t wanna go back to where I dey before, Make nobody stress me no disturb me jor jor jor I sip my alcohol.”
“Slowly,” a low-tempo romantic song, sets the mood for intimate moments. Gentle filtered chords, subtle shakers, rich percussions, and a low-tempo Afro swing drum pattern enhance the sultry and intimate atmosphere. Joeboy’s full harmonies and well-sung high notes add to the allure of the track as he peppers suggestive lyrics like, “Light one for me, Put on your favorite lingerie on for me, You belong to me, You come to me and you cum for me.”
“The Best For You,” produced by and featuring Kemena, falls short in terms of production quality. The driving tom sounds flat and plastic, the brass is noticeably synthetic, and the drum pattern feels stiff. The chords also don’t flow well into each other and clash with the artists’ melodic choices in places. Kemena approaches the song from an interesting angle stylistically, but the execution lets the song down greatly. Even the rhyme scheme sounds clumsy in places with lines such as “I heard you were missing me, I been hear say you dey wait for me (for me for me). But it was never meant to be. Put the blame on the alcohol (blame on the alcohol).” Unfortunately, even where Joeboy tries to rescue the song with falsetto singing and sharp melodies, the bland mix of the track disappoints, leaving us with a turgid penultimate track.
The final song on the album, “Halle,” features more production by E Kelly and Timmy. The beat, driven by a deep 808 bass and thumping log drums, creates an energetic atmosphere for sparse plucked synths and energetic clacking drums. The song appreciates God’s role in Joeboy’s life and success, as he sings “I no wan lie, everyday that I close my eyes, trouble dey my mind.
Wey dey make me no fit to smile, And I pray Jah you try and ease my mind, Cause many times water comot for my eyes and mans been smiling oh oh, Cause I no say dem be many wey no want to see man smile.” It’s touching to end the album on a note of thanksgiving, even though the resulting song isn’t the strongest. Joeboy still comes across as sincere and genuine in his writing and his delivery.
Altogether, Body & Soul is a decent body of work that will be propelled by its previously-released hits. The album feels a bit front-loaded, starting off strong and tapering off towards the back end. While there are standout tracks, the album fails to display much significant growth or development, with Joeboy staying firmly within his comfort zone. The sonics across the project feel fairly similar, and some instrumentals could be more distinct. Thematically, we do get some healthy variation across the project, and I wish we had gotten the same sonically. Even in terms of the thematic breadth, the songs are too short for depth to be shown, and so the themes are only explored surface-deep. The song-writing, although broad and relatable, falls short in delivering clever or memorable lines on a consistent basis. There are a number of possible anthem-worthy moments across Body &Soul, but they are few and far between.
The features, aside from BNXN and Odumodublvk, do not add much to the overall experience. Oxlade and CKay don’t imprint much of their own uniqueness on the songs they feature on, leading to verses that might as well have come from Joeboy himself. Ludacris provides a bit of flavour, just like he did on Blaqbonez’s recent single, “Cinderalla.” However, I’m not quite sure this is a flavour I’m particularly interested in. His rap style feels a bit outdated, especially as he intros and outros “Chicken, Spice & Curry” with a refrain akin to Hip-Hop songs in the early 2000s. The Oli Ekun feature on the interlude is a fun moment of respite that some might find jarring and out-of-place, albeit entertaining for its runtime.
Where Joeboy is concerned, his singing remains strong, with captivating melodies, wonderfully put-together harmonies, and fun delivery in his cadences. However, there’s a lack of truly eye-catching elements. He doesn’t stray far from his regular bag of tricks, nor does he seem to add to the repertoire of his vocal ability. This is not a problem though, as the ability he already possesses is above average amongst his peers, and is serviceable on most tracks he would ever have to perform.
Technically, the engineering quality varies throughout the album, with some songs feeling crisp and maximised, while others feel rough and in need of additional refinement. Removing a few weaker songs would probably have enhanced the overall quality of the tracklist as a whole.
Despite these shortcomings, Body & Soul offers enjoyable tracks that are fun to listen to. It’s a familiar Joeboy experience that doesn’t do much new, but one that still meets the standards of enjoyment. The album delivers a selection of hits, middle-of-the-road Afropop songs, and a few misses. But they all showcase Joeboy’s signature style and solid vocal abilities. While the album lacks notable growth, and some songs fall short in terms of production and song-writing, there are enjoyable moments to be found. With catchy melodies, relatable themes, and Joeboy’s smooth delivery, it’s a satisfying listen overall with some replay value. It would be refreshing to see Joeboy take more risks and push his artistic boundaries a bit, so while the album does do the job, we hope Joeboy steps out of his comfort zone and explore new directions in future releases.
Lyricism – 1.4
Tracklisting – 1.5
Sound engineering – 1.4
Vocalisation – 1.5
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 7.3
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.