By Chinonso Ihekire
Draped in sexy red lingerie and matching heels, she stands on a tall glass table singing to you in the most sensual of tones. Your mouth is agape, in awe, as you stare. She knows this, and you do too, but you are unable to do anything about it unless she demands it. This imagery right here is exactly what Ria Sean embodies.
When it comes to figuring out what makes new artistes tick, it’s easy to get too caught up in searching for the abstract and overlook what they wear proudly on the surface. This is the story with Gloria Enebi, professionally known as Ria Sean, one of Nigeria’s rapidly-rising female acts currently signed to Aristokrat Records.
I heard Ria Sean sing for the first time on a 2020 Paybac Iboro song dubbed “Nana’s Interlude”. On that track, she held her own, and her vocal prowess was impossible to ignore. For this brilliant songstress, it’s been a journey. Her music holds her out as a woman brimming with confidence, ambition, and a handbag full of dreams. For those close to her, it is clear that her transition to the spotlight is the result of consistency, plus an unquenchable yearning to create.
“I listened to the waves from the sea and it told me to live my truth, to sing my truth. The many times I needed an escape, only music spoke for me. Now look, I control the wave. I am coming for the world,” she wrote a few months ago, when she confirmed that she had put pen to paper with Aristokrat.
On Fluid, Ria Sean glows with confidence. Without restraint, she journals her mundane fantasies with deft vocalization that showcases her prowess as a singer. She hides her fear of public opinion on this EP, prioritizing self-expression over self-censorship.
“Don’t lose might/hold me tight/cum on me face/make we fornicate/you can fall in the place anytime you like,” she daringly sings on the pop-themed, lust-driven “Stamina”.
On this record, Ria Sean consolidates her efforts from her eponymous debut EP, by creating an image of herself that’s as feisty as it is vulnerable. While she shows her mastery in dishing out love tunes, Ria appears more comfortable letting her audience in on her sexual fetishes. Her record is a marker for the new wave in Nigeria’s music scene where women can sing about their sexual fantasies without being demonized for it. Take that, Patriarchy!
On Fluid, Ria’s artistic mien is calm and soothing. From the opening track, “Money Bag”, she displays her finesse, showcasing her vocal dexterity. Afropop and RnB blend seamlessly on this record, and if Buju is Nigerian music’s falsetto-manipulating yang, then Ria slots herself nicely as a complementing yin.
Fluid also deserves commendation for daring to experiment. Ria Sean’s hook on the song “Minor Notes” runs with a Lo-Fi/Neo-soul feel that stretches her vocal pitch to the edge. Her vocals find support in the brilliant production effort from Saszy Afroshii, Dunnie, PD, Bigfoot, Dehveen, and TMXO.
It would be gravely immoral to ignore the blind spot of this playlist. On Fluid, Ria pays little attention to lyricism, toeing more frequently-travelled roads in choosing ideas for her songs. It is glaring that her well of talent runs way deeper than she has dug in this project; her ideation and songwriting suggest that there is room for improvement. It is already clear that like Wizkid and Rema, Ria Sean has the potential to join the league of sonic maestros who have mastered the art of drawing out gold from a haystack of clichés.
As with Burna Boy and Ceeza Milli, Aristokrat is pushing Ria Sean with a familiar blueprint: harnessing the uniqueness of the artiste, especially with the content she already loves creating. However, she still maintains an abstraction and finesse peculiar to emerging artistes, qualities that she embodies on this record. The global stage is the new benchmark for artistic success among Nigerian musicians, and it is warming to see emerging artistes like Ria prepare for it.
The music in Fluid is exactly as its title suggests: abstract, borderless, subtle. It is the record you listen to when you are happy, when you are sad, and however you feel, you can be assured that you will connect with it. That, in itself, is its biggest superpower.