The Archives is not the most inviting of propositions for me among the albums I have reviewed this year. Unlike Sokay’s previous releases, he failed to explore his full vocal range, and his singing seemed somewhat bland….
By John Augustina
Okechukwu Okey, widely called Okey Sokay, is known for his danceable deliveries which he furthers with his recent album, The Archives. The album houses 8 tracks and is a conversation between Amapiano and Afrobeats. Sokay is reputed as one of Nigeria’s Gospel artistes whose songs are sprayed with the paint of unorthodoxy.
Since 2014, when he gained public acceptance, Sokay has had his head buried deep in producing danceable songs on the Gospel music rotation. Sokay describes the tracks on this album as songs he thought to share from his archives, which explains the title of the album.
The Archives, a rather underbaked album, comes out barely four months after Sokay cemented his penchant for making good, unconventional danceable songs with Declarations. The Archives bears obvious traces of unpreparedness, and lacks skill in composition and lyricism. Okey Sokay may have been known for releasing good music; yet, this album does not live up to that hype. My expectations for the album experienced a decline as each track rolled on my player. It is understandable, knowing that they were picked from his archives, but with his already established status, it tells of bad publicity serving listeners with a flawed album.
“Thank You, Jesus” is a meld of Afrobeats, covered in thick drum kicks, percussive baselines, audible piano chords, capped with simple lyricism. In this track, Sokay drives home the message of thanksgiving and gratitude. He expresses this message in the simple line that says “Thank you.” This track had about four lines of lyrics, and an obvious attention to beat.
Speaking about songs with sparse lyrics, “Praise the Lord” starts with pulsing sounds from the trumpet, heavy usage of the log drum and a perfect blend of guitar percussion and piano chords. The track has a single line that says, “I will praise the Lord, sing hallelujah, my God is good, and He’s good to me.” The track comes with good instrumental but lacks heavily in lyricism. This dents the quality of this song because, for Gospel music, people should move their bodies and still have their hearts connected to God through the lyrics. I didn’t have that connection listening to this track. It was all about the excitement that the beat produced. “Praise the Lord” is what I’ll refer to as Amapiano with a touch of four sentences.
“Bouncing in the Lord” is a sample of one of the mostly used family devotion songs in Nigeria. The song says, “I am bouncing in the Lord, Amen.” With few modifications, Sokay declares he is bouncing in the Lord because of the victory in the word of God, and the unimaginable love God has shown him.
“Wo Ye Ma Me” is a remix of Sokay’s hit song, “Good.” Sokay replaces the Igbo part of the song that says “Okwa gi mere nwanyi aga turi ime ey ey ey ey Okwa gi bu chukwuoma bunna za ekpere” to a version in Twi that says, “Wo ye ma me,” which means “good to me.” This track is accompanied by midtempo Afrobeats led by infrequent sounds from the trumpet. The song is a testament of God’s goodness in Sokay’s life.
“Never Let You Fall,” takes the lead in the category of better songs in The Archives. Typified by sonorous piano chords, appealing vocal exercises and relatable lyricism, Sokay encourages the believer to hang on as God would not let him fall.
“Naka” is a solemn rendition on this album that sends the message of God’s immense love. Here, Sokay sings about how God carries him in his hands like a baby, keeping him from harm. Placing emphasis on the vulnerability of a toddler, the track starts with a little child singing the chorus of the song.
“Wonderful” felt genuinely good. With a near flawless execution, from quality instrumentation, to display of vocal prowess, good rhythm, and relatable lyrics, the song is brilliant. The track explores the loving nature of God, His powers, as well as His ability to do signs and wonders.
“Sogi 2.0” is a song of thanksgiving and praise to God for His work. Sokay paints the picture of approaching God’s throne with a heart of gratitude for all He’s done for him.
Recent Gospel albums have shown a bothersome usage of heavy Amapiano log drums and sparse lyrics, a trend which is gradually eliminating the place of quality lyricism. What would Gospel music be if lyrics are not relatable, or songs appear to be wordless? Since Amapiano gained mainstream appeal, many Gospel artistes have leaned heavily on its beats rather than carving good lyrics.
The songs on The Archives unarguably crawl with mediocre lyrics. It seemed like Sokay needed help with words. We could however defend Sokay’s decision by arguing that the use of simple lyrics tend to stick easily on the mind of listeners, a fact that has led to an increasing lyrical simplicity in many Gospel albums. But some songs on The Archives appeared completely devoid of words, and rather latched on to unnecessary repetition of lines. In “Praise the Lord,” Sokay seemed like he wanted to sing or say more, but was clueless about what to say. This is a downside of this album that cannot be overlooked.
The Archives is not the most inviting of propositions for me among the albums I have reviewed this year. Unlike Sokay’s previous releases, he failed to explore his full vocal range, and his singing seemed somewhat bland.
Perhaps, also, the urge to strike when the iron was hot led to Sokay’s decision to release songs that have been cached for more than two years. Most of them had the signature of staleness and preternatural inexpressiveness written all over them. It is not bad to revisit old songs, but they should be sufficiently remodified to fit into present standards. Is the album entirely bad? Definitely not. Although it didn’t hold the theological substance and the strength for evoking spiritual transcendence that I anticipated, I enjoyed the danceable grooves, especially the Amapiano mix.
Lyricism – 1
Vocal production – 1
Sound production – 2
Rating – 4/10
John Augustina is a writer, a journalist, a singer, loves people and currently writes for Afrocritik. You can connect with her on Facebook @John Tina and Instagram @johntina_tina.