The undoubted strength of the EP is Mannywellz’s voice and everything he does with it. It is powerful, beautiful, and agile…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Singer, songwriter, and producer, Mannywellz’s Unwanted EP arrives while his name is still hot due to his recent show-stealing feature on Show Dem Camp’s “Freaky.” That cameo presented but a sliver of the multi-faceted style Mannywellz has developed over a number of years and projects (like his acclaimed 2020 album, Mirage.)
Mannywellz is the son of popular Nigerian Gospel artiste, Pastor Kunle Ajomale, and that is partly where he credits the Afro- and Juju influences in his sound to. However, while he was born in Nigeria, he spent a lot of his life growing up in the DMV area of the United States, and that contributed soul, R&B, and hip-hop infusions to his style. The result of this fusion is a versatile artiste with strong sonic ties to Nigeria as well as broad musical horizons; a style he dubs “SoulFro.”
Mannywellz’s unique fusion is immediately exemplified on the opening track, “Fire 4 Their Head.” The song opens with soft piano chords and Mannywellz’s pristine powerful voice. The instrumentation and emotive vocal delivery are reminiscent of a typical Soul/R&B song as he chastises a neglectful lover, singing, “Don’t make me promises, If you cannot keep none of it.” Yet, on closer listen, there are subtle elements that tie the soulful delivery stylistically towards Afrobeats. The way he chooses to enunciate his words, and the melodies he throws in reflect his Nigerian identity. “Fire for your head yo, Fire for your head yo, You make me feel unwanted, You make me feel like nonsense, yeah,” he chastises, simultaneously sounding like an angry Lagosian in traffic and a silky smooth romantic crooner. This song puts Mannywellz’s artistic strengths on full display. His vocal range and timbre are beautiful to listen to as he dances through melodies and runs with ease.
The next song is “Skedaddle,” and it delves firmly into Afrobeats territory with rattling percussions and a pounding danceable beat. The song sees Mannywellz setting the scene for a brief tryst, singing “Come and see me, Come and give me healing, Holy feelings, Legs up to the ceiling.” Although this track doesn’t demand the same level of vocal gymnastics, the strength and clarity of his voice is still at the fore. This song also allows you to notice how he writes his songs. He keeps it brief and simple, with lyrics that communicate the message without needing to get too wordy or descriptive.“Ready or Not” takes us in another stylistic direction, with boom-bap hip-hop drums while featuring prominent talking drums at certain points. This song addresses feeling unwanted from a different perspective; that of an immigrant on American soil. “Call me intruder, I’ll turn my back on you now, Don’t care who you are, Get out of my face,” Mannywellz warns. The song contains credited voiceover by Morelys Urbano, a prominent student and community issues activist at Morgan State University. While the song is built on a strong sentiment and message, I don’t think it quite feels as compelling musically. Mannywellz’s vocals are strong as always but the instrumental lets him down in places as it comes across a bit bland. As such, I found it most enjoyable during the voiceover interlude.
The energy picks right back up on “Jooce,” which was released earlier as a single. A funky guitar sets the tone while thumping drums and 808 basses drive the contagiously groovy rhythm. Manywellz surfs smoothly over the instrumental waves, intricately weaving catchy melodies with playful lyrics in admiration of someone who has “caught his eye.” “Just give me the time and the place, Just give me the sign, no dey wait, Put that jiggy in my plate, I’’ eat it, I like the chase, I’m with it,” he teases. This is a song that is perfect for poolside parties as it has that easy-going lounging vibe about it. My favourite song on the EP is a tie between this song and the one that comes after it.
That second favourite is the final song. “Cannot Kill Myself” is soaked in that signature Palmwine Music energy, with jazzy tropical guitars, lively Afrobeat percussions, muted trumpets, and electric pianos. While the instrumentals are already enough to get the feet tapping and the hips swaying, the main attraction of this song is the vibrant energy Mannywellz brings to it with his vocals. “I cannot come and kill myself for you, kill myself for you… Why should I suffer if it’s all on you?,” he asks in a way that many people will be able to relate with. The strategic use of group vocals throughout the song fills it out and injects a Highlife flavour that imbibes it with even more energy.
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Unwanted ends up being an enjoyable listen. The undoubted strength of the EP is Mannywellz’s voice and everything he does with it. It is powerful, beautiful, and agile. The engineering allows his voice to shine, minimising harmonies and effects to where they are absolutely necessary. This keeps his vocals crisp and clear in the mix. There seem to be only two songs that really touch on the topic of being unwanted, as the EP’s title suggests, and I’m not a big fan of one of these two.
While I understand its inclusion thematically, I think “Ready or Not” ultimately detracts a bit from the EP as a whole. This impact would have been lessened were it just an interlude. Sans that little hiccup, each song are little gems in their own rights. Mannywellz displays a lot of talent as a producer and an artiste all over the project. He has an interesting ability to juxtapose and balance R&B/Soul sensibilities with the energy of Afrobeats. He strikes me as an artiste that would be enjoyable to see live, and I hope that he can continue to grow his profile as his talent is unmistakeable.
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 1.5
Vocalisation – 2
Listening Experience – 1
Rating – 6.5/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.