Most record execs will tell you female artists aren’t the cheapest to maintain, from hair and makeup to allowances for wardrobe and skin care. Regardless of how great they may be at singing, when the lights come on, your star singer is also required to look the part.
Steve Babaeko and X3M Music must therefore feel like they won with Simi. A singer, and sound engineer, with an angelic voice and near-perfect songwriting skills, who doesn’t seem like she spends as much time in front of the mirror as she does in the studio – but it still works.
Simi’s peculiar sense of style has gotten her in trouble with the fashion police repeatedly, but the one thing you can never accuse the singer of is not being herself. On the jazzy “Original Baby”, the self-described ‘ordinary girl’ embraces every part of her being, from being a bit of a wallflower at parties, to the contradictory talkative spirit that she says she inherited from her mother. A lot of us use clothes and ornaments to conceal deep insecurities but Simi peels all that back in a moment of incredible sincerity and self-awareness.
You gotta take me as I am, I’ll be better
But I’ll never be somebody else
Simisola is Simi’s second solo album after Ogaju. With both albums being over a decade apart, as young as she is, Simi is already a music veteran lowkey. She got her start in the gospel circuit and evolved to the point where she’s comfortable writing and singing pop records. While there’s nothing on this album that should cause fans from then to disown her now, songs like “Angelina” and “HipHop Hurray” display a certain edge in the singer’s music.
Simi and her trusted producer Oscar have created a signature sound that’s measured and uncomplicated. Her music has an R&B/soul soft core, with Afro-centric outer rings comprised of indigenous sounds, from highlife to Juju. But on “Angelina”, Simi experiments with a light reggae crust, while on “HipHop Hurray”, she becomes the most unassuming master of ceremonies, encouraging party goers to let their hair down and put their hands in the air.
When the setting changes from Friday nights to Saturday afternoons, Simi is still able to move the crowd. On “O Wa N’Be”, she paints a colorful picture, describing the characters you’ll see at almost every one. From fun-loving Aunties who can’t stay at home on weekends, to older couples having more fun on the dance floor than even the newest couple. It’s the kind of record that best highlights one of Simi’s most valuable sensibilities, her sense of humor.
Another sensibility is the ageless nature of her music – its nostalgic feel. The older fans will love how Simi looked to the legends for inspiration on this album. The motivational “Aimasiko” samples portions of Chief Ebenezer Obey’s iconic tune, while the sweetly-sung “Joromi” takes its title and call-and-response feature from Victor Uwaifo’s original version. But if there is one thing that fans of all ages – from the pre-adolescents to pensioners – will relate to, it’s the way Simi sings about love. And it’s not always romantic love either, on “Remind Me”, she admonishes herself for not loving strangers as much as she does those close to her.
But Simi is arguably at her lyrical best when writing about the ups and downs of a relationship. There’s something innocent and unsure in “One Kain”, in how she describes a relationship that’s gradually crossing the friend zone into the great unknown. You feel her sadness and resignation on “Angelina” when she realizes that she isn’t the only one, and her confusion on “Gone For Good” because she knows that she’s just a ‘hey, big head’ text away from returning to her ex.
Speaking of third wheels, the Simi, Falz and Adekunle Gold’s music-love triangle has now produced 3 amazing bodies of work – Gold, Chemistry and Simisola; it’s a trilogy. While Adekunle wasn’t on Chemistry, the urban highlife singer returns Simi’s favor by being the backup singer and lone guest on her new album, as she was on his. Their duet “Take Me Back” is one of the standout songs on an already remarkable album guided intentionally by Simi’s own sensibilities and no one else’s.