The Korede Bello Bellovers Album Review
It started with a wink and a Jherri curl, now we are here. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are here. Nearly 3 years after causing minor panic on the internet with his appearance in the “Dorrobucci” video, I’m pleased to let you know that we have a Korede Bello album in our hands, finally.
More boys, girls and ladies, than gentlemen though, since he burst onto the scene, Korede’s handlers have gone to great lengths to build and maintain a squeaky clean image of the self-titled African Prince and deliberately court a younger, predominantly female audience. Korede’s success is therefore a case study on how to introduce a young heartthrob into a music space as unsegmented as Nigeria’s without forcing them to age their sound too soon.
Korede’s fans are called ‘Bellovers’ and the singer gathered a handful of them in the studio to sing chorally on “Good Times”, an uplifting tune that infuses remade portions of Montell Jordan’s classic hit record “This is How Do It”. Korede has a positive spirit that he tries to infect the listener with through his ‘sunny side up’, ‘make the world a better place’ attitude. For instance, on “Good Times” he encourages younger Bellovers to pledge to be well-behaved members of the society, while on “Let Him Go”, his approach is more advisory – taking a strong stand against domestic abuse, Korede encourages women to have the strength to leave abusive relationships.
You be jollof rice, no let them dey treat you like white rice
You be my Rolls-Royce, no let them dey ride you like Keke NAPEP
The lyrics aren’t ideal but the message to lady Bellovers is too powerful to be overshadowed by a few asinine similes.
The Bellovers are the album’s only guest features – that’s right, besides Tiwa Savage, whose duet with Korede “Romantic” was included only as a bonus, the Belloved album is filled with 14 songs from the Doro Mega superstar only.
The brevity is appreciated and the niche approach is in contrast to the mass market strategy of his other label mate Reekado Banks – and that’s appreciated as well. Korede Bello seems to have found a middle ground between pop music and Yoruba folk sounds that works and should keep him booked for owambes around the South-West. He flirts with other styles such as Latin music and R&B but overall his debut album spends more time in this space than any other.
With the forewarning that Korede’s style is targeted and now seeing that his debut project is all about him, Belloved comes with implicit restrictions on age and gender, and a hidden sign that says ‘no non-Bellovers allowed’. You’re made aware that this is a family, friends and fans affair from the very first song “Korede” where the singer singles out two sets of people for high praise – the people who play his music and the girls that love his ‘dimple’.
“Korede” also contains the singer’s most personal moments, he talks about his journey from FESTAC and Mile 2 and expresses his gratitude to God for bringing him this far. The album closes out with gratitude as well, over a Baby Fresh instrumental Korede rehashes the timeless “Ese Baba” gospel chorus to deliver a generic thank you record, while retelling the standard Nigerian artist’s story – about how bad belle people put them down but how they’re now on the up and up.
In between “Korede” and “Ese Baba”, Belloved has a number of peaks, most notably the splendid “Favorite Song”, the album’s solitary ballad. In contrast to the rest of the music on offer, Cobhams helps the pop star to deliver a mature R&B tune, Korede remains in his comfort zone – no vocal gymnastics needed, none deployed. Cobhams worked miracles on the keyboard for “Favorite Song” but one little known fact about Korede is that he’s an instrumentalist himself. He teamed up with ace guitarist Fiokee to play live guitar on “Repete”, another love song but in a whole other class to “Favorite Song”. Whereas “Favorite Song” aims to be mature and technically sound, “Repete” is the kind of run-of-the-mill, syrupy love song you’d expect a young heartthrob to tease his female fans with – Belloved has few of them.
One of the challenges with deliberately making music for a young audience is that the artist has to simplify the songwriting, dumb down the plots, exaggerate their cadence on a record, make the melody extra catchy and so on. Maintaining a high level of creativity while doing all this is a big ask, keeping those who weren’t the primary target engaged is an even bigger one. Without the right answers to those questions, the artistic limitations of Belloved are quite obvious to see.
Korede’s opus won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. But as long as his family, friends and fans are sipping it, he won’t have to worry about the non-Bellovers that prefer coffee – and Korede Bello, quite frankly, doesn’t need to.