When it comes to mainstream Afrobeats in the UK, Fuse ODG is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the genre. The fact that we are even talking about Afrobeats entering the music charts has got a lot to do with this guy. It all started when Fuse “just came back from Ghana and [he] wanted to show us this dance that everyone was doing over there” – and just like that Azonto videos were appearing all over the web and a new culture was born.
Not since D’banj’s “Oliver Twist” and P-Square’s “Chop My Money” has the UK really embraced Afrobeats as positively as it is doing at the moment, and sitting at the top of this movement is Fuse ODG. Following a string of hit singles, high profile collaborations and MOBO award wins, Fuse ODG’s debut album T.I.N.A. (This Is New Africa) has finally been released. So have we heard all the best bits or is it worth the full length listen?
“Letter To TINA”:
The first track “Letter to TINA” is a great introduction to the album. With just a simple organ melody and backing choir, this heart-warming song is reminiscent of a stereotypical, Lady Smith Black Mambazo-sounding African Gospel song, as we are reminded of Fuse’s love for the motherland. The speech towards the end is a little unexpected but it is a heartfelt reminder from Fuse of who he is and what the mission in his music is all about – promoting the best of Africa.
The problem artists typically face with any great first song, is the follow up. The next track on the album “Bucket Full of Sunshine”, is literally the difficult second song. Lyrically the track is so lovely that it is almost hard to say a bad word about it…but the production is just very off. Between the ‘home-made’ sounding beat, and the Weird Al-Yankovic-autotune, it’s quite hard to understand why this song comes next. An interlude maybe, or a middle-of-the-album-track perhaps, but a second song? Risky move. Female vocals on the hook might have been a better substitute (itzTiffany?) but who knows, this one is going to be Marmite for people.
Thankfully the album picks up again with Fuse’s hit singles “Million Pound Girl” and “Antenna”. “Antenna” is the song that really brought Fuse ODG to the attention of many people, especially those that saw the viral video which accompanied this song, featuring the clever choreography of amateur dance duo Selasi and KB. Arguably Fuse’s best song, “Antenna” still sounds as good as when it first came out and will no doubt sound good in years to come. There’s nothing like having a timeless song on your album.
As it moves into middle-album territory, songs like “This Girl” and “Thinking About You” are decent, catchy-enough tracks. The prelude “Over”, about a former lover who suddenly decides that ‘it’s all over Jackie’ is worth a listen to though, especially for the final plot-twist! Again, Fuse’s hit songs “Dangerous Love”, “Azonto” and “T.I.N.A”, featuring Sean Paul, Itz Tiffany and Angel respectively, help to pick up the pace a little and get you dancing as expected.
However “Ye Play” is also worth talking about. Produced by Maleek Berry (so you already know it’s going to be good), this song has got a great radio-friendly beat that makes you suspect whether this will be the next released single from Fuse. Either this track or “Office Work” in which Fuse is all about the hustle! Featuring the famous Mr Hackett that we’ve been hearing so much about, there’s more of a Hip Hop-R&B flavour on this one, and although the chorus is more repetitive than it really needs to be, lyrically it’s something different to what we usually hear from Fuse ODG.
Now this review would not be complete without an honourable mention of the track “I’ll Be Back”. This song deserves special recognition simply for the quick escalation between Wyclef Jean and Jesus as the people Fuse would like to follow in the footsteps of. On a different note, Fuse does a pretty decent job of rapping on this track and it would be good to hear him rap more. Finishing the album is the track “Beautiful Sunray” featuring G FrSH and hot-right-now duo Krept and Konan.
T.I.N.A. is a good upbeat Afrobeats album. Fuse ODG makes great transferable songs, the type of songs that can be enjoyed on daytime radio as well as blasted in a club and this album proves that he’s still got potential for more. The album is quite long though and after “Office Work” you do start to feel like you want go home after a long day, but realistically, there are a few tracks on T.I.N.A. that could have been saved for a second album. Furthermore, in the space of sixteen songs the theme goes from ‘I Love Africa’ to “she don’t even like pancakes, but she wants some Krept in her” (get it?) so the song order is interesting. However T.I.N.A. generally starts well and ends well, which is ideally what you want from an album. Overall, not a bad debut from Fuse ODG. Time to dust off your Azonto!
Purchase: Fuse ODG – T.I.N.A. (iTunes)
Words by Tomi Olujide // Edited by Ayo Adepoju