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‘Calm Down’, Everybody Must ‘Buga’, ‘Last Last’: The Songs That Shaped 2022

There was no shortage of bangers for the year.


Top Nigerian artists of 2022

Imagine getting through a year like 2022 without music. What would we have done amid the constant frustration of steady food price hikes, fuel scarcity, and floods? Thankfully, that hypothetical dystopia is not our reality! Our favourite artists came through with their carefully crafted records, and with that came an entire spectrum of emotions stirred up in us. These are the absolute bangers for which we have them to thank:

 

Kizz Daniel & Tekno, “Buga (Lo Lo Lo)”

2022 was the year of Kizz Daniel’s “Buga”. Everyone and their grandma had this one on repeat almost all year long. And why not? The song takes off with the now famous call to action — “Don’t sleep! Wake up!” — accentuated by a persistent percussion. Immediately, it is clear that Kizz Daniel is our life coach and dance instructor all at once.

As “Buga” progresses, we become increasingly aware that the directive to “go low low low” is for our own good. So, we comply. We raise our shoulders, arms akimbo, and show our stuff. Even Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Bishop Matthew Kukah know resistance is futile.

Almost as soon as its release on May 3rd, “Buga” took its rightful place at the top of Apple Music’s Top 100. And in no time, the artist otherwise known as Oluwatobiloba Anidugbe earned himself a spot on the global stage, performing at the World Cup Fans Festival in Qatar. On top of that, the accompanying music video helped Daniel bag his first 100 million views on YouTube.

Is it any wonder the Afro-pop tune is Google’s most searched song of the year?

Rema, “Calm Down”

For many of us, Rema’s confident vocals and nimble lyricism on “Calm Down” was all the reassurance needed to get through the rollercoaster that was 2022. Though his allusions to lockdowns and orange soda might have done more harm than good. In spite of this quibble, Divine Ikubor (to his die-hards) shows he is able to hone in on a love language all his own. His reward? Over 300 million views on YouTube!

Collaborating with Selena Gomez on the reissue was an inspired move, one which some would argue falls shy of the original. Nevertheless, for their trouble, the duet attained the enviable milestone of selling one million units in the United States, pointing to a global fan base that has grown to include Barack Obama. Without this entry, our 2022 playlist would be incomplete.

Fireboy DML & Asake, “Bandana”

We had hardly recovered from the solo offerings of these YBNL powerhouses when they joined forces for this nuclear attack of a two-hander. And boy, did they bring it. Sure, we were game from the word go, but that opening guitar riff hit us and we knew we were in for a real treat. “Low-key, all of them don dey notice” indeed. And with those words, Adedamola Adefolahan’s DML reintroduced us to his breathy vocals, taking us on a lifelong journey he’s been writing “since ’06.” 

By the time Asake (Ahmed Ololade himself) takes the mic, the autobiographical record ascends to anthemic new heights. It’s an Afro-folk song replete with tales of humble beginnings, legendary destinies, and everything in between. As intimate as it is grandiose, “Bandana” joins the eclectic duo’s ever-growing repertoire, an instantly nostalgic track we’re sure to keep coming back to for years to come. Zany music video director TG Omori also deserves a special shoutout for harnessing Asake’s Afro-punk energy to unearth one of the year’s best memes.

That, we truly never saw coming.

Davido featuring Sunday Service Choir, “Stand Strong”

Another one of the year’s most unexpected hits comes from Davido. Just when we thought the crown prince of Afropop had taken the genre about as far as it could go, he wowed us with this otherworldly genre-bender. Fusing traditional Afrobeat and gospel, he shows us the Nigerian music scene has a lot more to offer and places still to go. Joined by Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir, Davido makes a case for the most soulful track of the year.

A lyrically introspective David Adeleke shares his desire to rise up against forces of negativity. “My steps are guided by Jehovah,” he belts out accompanied by the booming harmony of West’s ensemble. Undaunted by the challenge of singing in a foreign language, the choir lets our spirits soar as their hymn crescendos, steadily reverberating to the very last second.

You won’t leave the same way you came.

 

Mavins, “Overloading (OVERDOSE)”

How incredible is it that 10 whole years have gone by since Michael Ajereh founded Mavin Records? This feat is even more remarkable when you realise there’s hardly been a moment of derailment on his part. That’s because Ajereh — Don Jazzy, that is —- steers this ship with laser focus, guaranteeing his hit factory continues to chart the course with one star-making turn after another. For the label’s decade-old milestone, the entire lineup is wrangled for “Chapter X”, a compilation album in the vein of Mo’ Hits All Stars’ “Curriculum Vitae” (2007).

“Overloading (OVERDOSE)” continues Don Jazzy’s tradition of showcasing his impressive arsenal. Everyone from LADIPOE to Ayra Starr gets a spotlight, making for a record that harkens back to “Dorobucci” (2014) and “Pere” (2007). The love-drunk ensemble charms us with promises of credited bank accounts (yay, giveaway!) and we are all ears, paving the way for YouTube’s top trending music video of 2022.

Tems, “No Woman No Cry”

Tems is on the up and up, and we’ve got front row seats. How amazing is that? With her feature on Future’s “Wait For U”, she snagged her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart. Now, she is in the conversation for the Best Original Song Oscar at the 2023 Academy Awards, thanks to her songwriting efforts on Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up”, the lead single from the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack album. 

Taking centre stage on the film’s hotly anticipated trailer, her melodic vocals moved us with her stripped down version of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” back in July — even before we saw a single frame! And thus, the stage was set for perhaps the most grief-stricken movie of the year.

With Oscar gold on the horizon, Tems follows in the footsteps of another Nigerian icon, Sade Adu, who only managed to make the 2019 shortlist for her soulful “The Big Unknown” from the 2018 heist film “Widows”. Having already bagged a Golden Globes nomination for penning Rihanna’s sorrow-tinged ballad, Temilade Openiyi is poised for an even more dazzling 2023.

Asake, “Sungba”

Now, what kind of list would this be without Mr Money with the Vibes himself? Like clockwork, the Afropop sensation has delivered nothing but hits this year, from “Organise” to “Joha”. But “Sungba” is the one we keep coming back to as his standout of 2022. “Jọ jọ jọ…” A sprinkling of signature maraca beats and laid-back, proudly Yoruba vocals set the stage for what soon turns into comfort food for our ears. But not too comfortable, or you might completely lose sight of the intentionally off-kilter rhythm that ushers us into the chorus.

In a year populated by reissues and remixes featuring American pop stars, Asake takes us homeward for a refreshing change of pace. Featuring our own Burna Boy, we get the requisite starpower deserving of a masterpiece such as this, his lower-register second-verse delivery in perfect balance with YBNL’s wild card. With lyrics this intense, we’ll be unpacking “Sungba” well into 2023.

 

Ayra Starr, “Rush”

Despite being one of the later releases of the year, “Rush” wasted no time in making a strong impression in Nigeria and beyond. The sleeper hit managed to show up as one of only three Nigerian records among Obama’s favourite songs of 2022.

Ayra Starr (Oyinkansola Aderibigbe) is her own woman and she wants the world to know. A word for anyone who thinks she doesn’t have the Midas touch: “E dey rush well well.” 

On the heels of her breakthrough single, “Bloody Samaritan” (2021) and the Kelly Rowland remix this year, the underproduced “Rush” feels like home. Inasmuch as the bouncy instrumentals are mellow, they form the backdrop for her empowering lyrics: “Me no getty time for the hate and the bad energy, Got mi mind on my money…” Sounds like a pretty great New Year’s resolution, if you ask me.

 

Burna Boy, “Last Last”

So, you thought Damini Ogulu’s reign was over? Well, the Grammy winner is still on his journey to world domination and this year’s pit stop is his epic breakup anthem, “Last Last”. Little did we know Burna would have us repeatedly chanting a bunch of taboo words: “I need *that herb* and *a certain hot drink*” — millions of us across the world, soberheads and stoners alike, chorusing in every accent.

Who are we kidding? Burna Boy totally had us with “Last Last”. Producers Off & Out borrow from Toni Braxton’s “He Wasn’t Man Enough”, giving the R&B classic the Afrobeats treatment, complete with hypnotic melody line and looped vocalisations. Their talents are nothing short of magical. But it is the African Giant who takes it to the finish line. When you make Obama and Jay-Z’s year-end playlists, what more is there to say?