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“Loveless” EP Review: Lojay and JAE5 Take a Roller-Coaster Ride Through Modern Romance

“Loveless” EP Review: Lojay and JAE5 Take a Roller-Coaster Ride Through Modern Romance

Loveless - JAE5 - Lojay - Afrocritik

Loveless has Lojay grapple with the meaning of love throughout. Each track uses the word multiple times, but its meaning shifts ever so slightly with each song.

By Patrick Ezema

Loveless, the new EP jointly presented by Nigerian singer-songwriter, Lojay, and UK-Ghanaian producer, JAE5, has a name that barely summarises the roads of love and romance it embarks on in its twelve-minute journey. Sure, the EP’s overarching theme discusses how true love continually evades them, but also contained here is the road that leads to that conclusion. In four tracks Lojay spirals in and out of love, rejecting, accepting and rejecting again the possibility that what he shares with a woman — the highs of passion, the lows of infidelity — could indeed be love. JAE5 is the conductor of this madness, and for the most part, he keeps the EP spinning on fresh sonic ground, exploring Afropop’s lower-tempo range with the occasional dive into Amapiano. 

One of the common reactions when the EP was announced was how great a match the artists made. Examining the last few years of their careers reveals in retrospect that they were always drifting towards this collaboration. JAE5 has taken an increased interest in Nigerian music in recent times, a journey that may be traced from producing for the black rappers of African descent in the UK (J Hus, Dave), to producing for the Nigerians that they featured on their albums (Burna Boy), and finally coming to Nigeria to create collaborative tracks with its brightest stars (Bnxn, Blaqbonez). 

On the other side of this collaboration, Lojay sits as the ideal candidate for a producer looking to connect to untapped sounds from Nigeria — in 2021, his stellar EP with Sarz, LV N ATTN, pushed the frontiers of Nigerian Pop’s innovation with Amapiano, Pop and Caribbean sounds. His combination of brilliant penmanship and effusive vocal talent is rare, and his multifaceted outlook of love confers more depth to his music than is often offered in Afropop. There are love songs and there are heartbreak songs; everything in between is Lojay’s domain. Loveless has two men on a boat paddling through a turbid situationship, while Lojay attempts a coherent exposition of what it is like to be in one. 

“Dishonest” brims with this vivid description, as he portrays a man stuck in a crevice between pain and pleasure. “Heaven send me fire ‘cos I’m fighting Satan”, he says about a woman and their relationship, pointing out that “morning texts don’t read the same” and “tears are pouring down like ocean waves”. Acknowledging these shortfalls — none of which would be indicative of a healthy relationship — does not lead to the conclusion that should follow. Lojay admits in the end that this imperfect situation is “love, regardless”. 

This, the opening track, is also JAE5’s chance to lay down the sonic template for what is promised to be a futuristic, genre-bending EP. How he does this, however, by incorporating a bit of Amapiano, is a little innovative, but in the current Nigerian music landscape, now looks to be more characteristic of the past than the future. 

The next two tracks, “Watermami” and “Sweet Love”, however, are content with not attempting much innovation from tonic Afropop. On the former, Lojay extols the virtues of the woman that has him spellbound enough to remain in this mess of a relationship. In typical Lojay fashion, these features are chiefly physical, but in atypical Lojay fashion, he ascribes them in slightly undignified writing. “Girl you too fine/ Even with no makeup on your face”, he sings, lyrics that can hardly be described as original, while JAE5’s Afropop production bounces along.

“Loveless” EP Review: Lojay and JAE5 Take a Roller-Coaster Ride Through Modern Romance - Afrocritik
JAE5 | Deezer

Loveless has Lojay grapple with the meaning of love throughout. Each track uses the word multiple times, but its meaning shifts ever so slightly with each song. In “Sweet Love”, an improvement over “Watermami” in both sound and theme, he appears to have discovered its true essence, but in the arms of another man’s girlfriend —“Sare wale, make your boyfriend no see you”. Sometimes he is content with imagining love to be a shared feeling of something sexual and intimate. Other times, when a little more clarity appears, he realises that commitment and mutual trust are also important ingredients of this dish and the ones that elevate it beyond mere infatuation. 

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Lojay

 

Modern dating has become more and more a game; played across texting apps, played against your own partner, and played to the entertainment of social media. Lojay’s expository depiction of the game is so poignant and relatable as he not only writes it well but stars in it himself. It’s wholly non-judgemental, because to be judgemental would be to pass judgement on himself. And the messiness of it all can easily get lost in Lojay’s saccharine delivery to the inattentive ear. 

Only on “I Wish” does Lojay portray some semblance of a healthy relationship, but by then it is too late, and not just because this is the EP’s closer. Lojay finally realises that his underhanded view to relationships has driven away a woman he should have treated more specially and, encouraged by a “shot of Casamigos” and JAE5’s melancholy keys, he pens a letter of regret. At his tenderest, he is accompanied by a soothing Libianca, and the duo take turns echoing “I wish I poured all my love on you”. Today’s dating “strategy” is mostly geared towards self-preservation: hold back affection until you receive it, be careful not to exceed the energy of the other person, and keep your options open. Loveless explores all of these tactics, but Lojay ultimately comes to a conclusion that explains his ill luck with love: you have to offer true love to get it, even at the risk of non-reciprocation.

 

Lyricism – 1.5

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Tracklisting – 1.4

Sound Engineering – 1.3

Vocalisation – 1.6

Listening Experience – 1.5

Rating 7.3/10

Patrick Ezema is a music and culture journalist. Send him links to your favourite Nigerian songs @EzemaPatrick

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