Wednesday, 22 May 2024
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The Top 10 Songwriters Of The New Generation Of Popstars

Who is the best songwriter amongst the new generation of popstars? This is an interesting discourse that’s been sparked multiple times, amongst fans of various artists and has ignited enough traction to the point that even the artists themselves, got involved at some point. No one needs a debriefing on the infamous Omah Lay tweet that got a response from Victony and further incited the conflict between Ruger and BNXN.

New Generation of Nigerian Pop Stars

Amongst many other arguments like who is the true leader of the new school and the biggest Afrobeats export, the best songwriter discourse is one that can be tangibly ascertained from the evidence on ground – lyrics. But even at that, there are key metrics to be considered before we properly delve into this topic and our rankings. At this point, it’s important to note that this list is made up of pop singers and pop singers only. Rappers like Blaqbonez, Ladipoe and other artists with prominent Hip-Hop influences like Asake aren’t included. That being said, let’s dive in.

Metrics considered: Technicality, Simplicity of resonance, Tightness of rhyme schemes and consistency across discography.

Honorable mentions:

A. Pheelz

Pheelz (@Pheelz)

The veteran producer turned artist is unarguably one of the greatest Afrobeats producer of the past decade with a discography that has spawned the production of numerous classic albums from an Olamide trifecta to a Fireboy duology. What’s not being properly documented about his prowess however is his impressive pengame that’s assisted multiple artists over the years in crafting numerous hit songs, due to the previous era’s lack of appropriate industry awareness.

His recently released sophomore EP is a glaring example and a testament to the fact. On the viral, Finesse he holds his own against BNXN, one of the best writers of the new generation of artists. But its his more fleshed out, confessional writing on tracks like Stand By You and Pheelz Good that really stands out.

B. Boy Spyce & Magixx

Boy Spyce and Magixx

This duo at Mavins, revealed about a year apart have proven their pen astuteness on their respective projects and even guest performances. On Dreams, the opener on Boy Spyce’s debut EP—he narrates the heartwrenching tale of losing a friend, as a result of them drifting apart because of the difference of their dreams. The imagery invoking and emotionally profound style of Spyce instantly drew comparisons between him and Fireboy DML, who is also one of the best writers by general consensus.

Magixx’s pen hasn’t perhaps drawn the same comparisons with the heavy hitters, but the evidence is all there if one cares enough to pay keen interest. On the original Love Don’t Cost A Dime, he waxes poetic relentlessly on two long verses about how much his girl means that much to him in some really tight rhyme schemes and a nostalgic laced narrative. In fact, more recently on his 2-track pack release, Magixx goes on some incredibly runs that provides lines like “she wetter than John the Baptist.” A line that’s one of the wildest lines this writer has heard this year.

And now on to the top 10.

10. Victony

Victony (@vict0ny)

Agree or not with Victony’s subliminal quote tweet reaction to Omah Lay’s claim of being the best songwriter, but there is definitely substance in him implying he’s a great writer also. Matter of fact, if we were evaluating overall ability and ceiling alone, he’d probably be much higher on this list. But because his background as an artist has roots of Hip-Hop and we’re only evaluating these artists as pop singers, we’re only assessing his pen game on his pop discography that consists of a handful of singles and his debut EP.

It’d be easy to miss the wittiness of his pengame on songs like Soweto, where he likens the pull a woman has on him to the way Ogbono soup draws, or when he measures the sensual bounty of his love interest’s body to ‘foreign currency’ on All Power. It’s perhaps on Kolomental, that the true brilliance is on clear display. “Make ogbanje no use me test run, make potopoto no stain my cloth” he muses with cultural appropriate metaphors that resonate instantly.

9. Joeboy

Joeboy (@joeboy)

It might be distant memory now, but there was a time when Joeboy was at the top echelon of new school leaders. Alongside Rema and Fireboy DML, he was amongst the first crop of new generation genre-malleable artists that broke into the mainstream in 2019. The artist is more renowned for his catchy, memorable hooks but his overall songwriting is in fact underappreciated.

His debut album, Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic didn’t take off or have the massive reception like the debuts of his peers have but it wasn’t lacking in the songwriting department. Joeboy’s style is more simplistic compared to some other writers on this list, but it’s the heartfelt nature and honesty in the way he bares out himself that makes it relatable. Songs like Runaway and Oshe will have you swooning for days and if you think he lacks range and doesn’t stray beyond the confines of love songs, listen to how jaded he sounds on the more recent, Contour.

8. Rema

Rema (@heisrema)

It’s really hard to classify Rema on a list such as this, because there is no middle ground with him. It’s either his pengame is incredibly stellar like it was on tracks like Soundgasm, Addicted, Why and Are You There? or it’s rather underwhelming on songs like Dirty, Jo or Calm Down (granted, it’s a smash-hit song.) But it’s pixel clear that Rema is a brilliant songwriter when he cares about being intentional with his narrative, whilst some many other times—he doesn’t care as much.

Rema is also quite dynamic in the way he approaches writing. He could go the emo song-rapping route like he did on recently released Reason You, the trap psychedelic route of Addicted and Why, or even a more debauchery pop approach like his verse on Won Da Mo. Versatility is his greatest forte and the reason many clamor he’s the biggest talent of the new generation.

7. Ayra Starr

Ayra Starr (@ayrastarr)

Don’t let Ayra’s latest ventures into the dark, murky waters of incoherent pop nonsense, that produced Sability trick you into believing that she isn’t a great writer. At the age of 19, she released a stellar debut album, that also followed a great debut EP and one of the foundations the quality of these projects were built on was great songwriting.

On Lonely, she compares the chemistry between her and her lover to the compatibility of gin and guice and on Fashion Killer, she asserts defiance-inducing-dominance and unyielding confidence with lines like “my denim faded, but i rock it like a baby in a cot” and “i light the room in the dark, ’cause my bling is a torch.” Detractors would quickly attribute this brilliance to the contribution of her brother being a co-songwriter on the album, but there is no evidence that points to the latter being a bigger contributor. Matter of fact, from interviews both Ayra and her brother confirmed that they each wrote half of every song they worked together on.

6. Tems

Tems (@temsbaby)

In a world where Ayra Starr didn’t release Sability, perhaps her and the biggest Afrobeats export till date would be tied at songwriting prowess, but Tems simply doesn’t have a grey area in her discography with mediocre writing. What she lacks for in punchy metaphors, she makes up for with even tighter rhyme schemes and more topical vulnerability.

On The Key, she professes that the pathos in her music could kill the darkness and on the Billboard Hot 100 hit, Free Mind, she sings “This is the peace that you cannot buy, send me a love that you cannot mix” to emphasize how timeless and invaluable the therapeutic nature of solitary and serenity is and how crucial it is in freeing one’s mind. Just simplistic, resonant writing at its utmost best and her consistency at this, is what as her this high up on the list.

5. Ruger

Ruger (@rugerofficial)

Right from the jump on Ruger’s debut EP in opening songs, Ruger and Abu Dhabi—you can tell that he is an incredible songwriter with super tight multi-syllabic rhyme schemes that qualifies as sing-rapping. Asides that, there is also his amazing vocal technique and breath control that makes him arguably the best at pure delivery on a beat, amongst his peers. It’s hard to find one Ruger song that he didn’t find all the pockets of beat on said song. His strong affinity and background for dancehall and Afro-Swing sonic soundscapes gives him ample opportunity to flaunt his rapping-esque deliveries.

Give what belongs to Caesar, to Caesar’s” he sings on Bounce, using the popular adage as a metaphor for instructing a love interest to give him her body, as she belongs to him. Treacherous lines like these—that tread the thin line between alpha male personality and toxic masculinity—are the order of the day for Ruger. It’s recurring on recent songs like Red Flags, with lines like “But before I go, take some kisses and never doubt the fact say I love you pieces.” The other side of his pen is when he’s being his usual defiant me-against-the-world self, like he was on Asiwaju with lines like “I’m your daddy, I’m your uncle, I’m your popsy, I be old man, no go dey call me Gen-Z.”

4. Lojay

Lojay (@lojaymusic)

He might be an unpopular choice, because he doesn’t have as much momentum on his side compared to some artists here—but once again, the evidence is all there in his writing. Matter of fact, if we were to consider sheer technicality alone, Lojay is top 3 and he’s not no. 3. His metaphors are simply astounding and he belts out poetic entendres that induces jaw-dropping reactions. However, because of the smaller sample size of his discography in comparison to some of his peers that have demonstrated consistency over an album, we’d be putting him at #4.

On Tonongo, he declares that a love interest was deserving of an “ass-cheek Ballon D’or” and on the more recent Amapiano-Fusion track, Availabu produced by Magic Sticks, he entertains religious sacrilegious statements by likening the act of sex to ‘putting his faith in a woman’s holy fire.’ It’s ridiculous the way Lojay gets creative with treacherous lines like this and unlike Ruger that’s just pure debauchery and toxicity—Lojay also infuses his writing with vulnerability and confessional writing, that’s obvious on the more recent MOTO.

3. BNXN

BNXN (@BNXN)

Ask most people who’s had the best verse of 2023 so far, and they’d be sure to cite BNXN’s performance on Minz’s WO WO and for good reason too. A performance so stellar in lyrical content and ryhme scheme structure, that it overshadowed the verse of a rapper that came right after it. When a good Hip-Hop artist like Blaqbonez gets outrapped by a pop singer, it’s a testament to how good the pen of said singer is.

And this sort of performance isn’t a one-time fluke for BNXN. He isn’t the favourite songwriter of most people for no tangible reason. He’s demonstrated the same level of dexterity on earlier projects like his debut EP and the more recent one, Bad Since ’97 where he was sing-rapping for the majority of the first 2 tracks and dropping cheeky one-liners and double entendres. In one place, he’s likening his blazing hot streak to the hotness of the fire used to fry suya and in another, he’s making a claim to the top and likening his level to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.

2. Fireboy DML

Fireboy DML (@fireboydml)

Adedamola Adefolahan is a phenomenal songwriter to say the least and would be most people’s pick for number #1 and for good reason. (This writer has no problems with anyone putting him at #1.) The R&B singer’s unique talent to craft stories with lyrics that are so resonant that they tug at one’s heart strings in a nostalgic and simplistic, yet profound way is second to none. In a nutshell, his writing easily evokes the most emotion and that’s as a result of his mastery of poetic undertones and even more technical one-liners.

I no dey blow trees, Orin ló n yí mi lórí” he sings on Bandana, declaring that it’s his love for music and his art—that drives him crazy and not drugs—in such an emotionally sentimental way, yet technical with its manner of metaphor comparison at the same time. It’s the same manner in which he compares the tears falling on the face of his lover to shooting stars on Coming Back For You. This is the staple of Fireboy’s writing and it’s obvious on other tracks like Remember Me, where he compares life to a song and implores everyone to make the most of its melodies. Songs like Playboy and Airplane Mode also attest to how super tight his rhyme schemes can get.

1. Omah Lay

Omah Lay (@omah_lay)
Omah Lay (@omah_lay)

A lot of people like to discredit Omah Lay’s rightful claim of being the best writer of the new generation, because of his tendency of leaning into repetive hooks for his features and some of his singles, but that isn’t in anyway a sensible detraction. On such a list like this that very little separates the artists—most especially, the top 5—it is Omah Lay’s range and uniqueness that perhaps places him above everyone else as a writer.

He’s shown the jaw dropping, Lojay-type technical metaphors, when he likened hitting a pussy to a “motor accident” on Bend You. He has the poetic undertones of Fireboy’s simplicity, when he belts out lines like “Me I no fit drag shine, Oluwa na him be my Kanji Dam” on Smash-Hit, Godly. And he even has Ruger’s esque sing-rapping tendencies when he goes on multi-syllabic runs like he did on Damn, the opener off his debut EP. Basically, Omah Lay has the best of all the worlds in his arsenal and his one unique trait of documenting sexual encounters in such a personal, jarring way that immerses the listener totally in the experience.

Only Omah Lay, would liken a girl having an orgasm to someone having an epileptic reaction and still portray such profound enotional depth and vulnerability, on a track like I’m A Mess on the same album and then turn an iconic Fela line like “water no get enemy” on its head, by adding the ensuing line “till you fall for Oshimiri“, communicating that indeed water is dangerous and could be an enemy, if you fall for the goddess of the river Niger.

As we come to the end of this article, it is once again important to iterate that very little separate these artists, especially the top 5. Matter of fact, this writer has no problem with anyone re-arranging the top 5 in however rank they deem fit. Everyone in that range has a rightful claim to #1 and that’s only a compliment to the rich caliber of songwriters we have in this new generation.

This article is written by T.J. Martins, an Album Talks writer and doesn’t reflect the full opinion of the publication across board.

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