‘Oxygene’ is Oxlade’s commendable, yet polarizing debut

Posted on Mar 31 2020 - 11:43pm by admin

Again, I deleted it. This 6-track EP dropped on March 27, 2020. It came six months later than I anticipated that Oxlade would drop a project. While I came late to the Oxlade party in September 2018, I’ve liked the artist since then. My attraction to his music is about his deft use of his standard tenor voice type while he also experiments with his vocal range and octaves.

Not only can he sing, he can make music. Even though singles like ‘Shugar‘ and ‘Legend’ or features like ‘Ibadi’ with DJ Tunez,Wait For You‘ with Melvitto and ‘Angelina’ by Juls didn’t really crack the mainstream and become hits, anyone who listened asked about the boy singing like an Ijala singer born into a family of R&B vocalists in Upstate, New York.

Then, at some point, I felt the music was getting delayed because Oxlade was looking for a hit. While I might have been wrong, I’m still convinced that I have a point. Nonetheless, the music was finally announced as an EP titled, Oxygene.

First off, I hated the artwork which seemed like cross between Rene Russo scribbles and hurriedly finished neo-impressionist artwork by Monet with a touch of 2020 graphics. However, I liked the design of the tracklist page – I particularly loved the detail and the credits. Nonetheless, I was nervous about the music.

While ‘Away‘ struck a chord, it was neither groundbreaking nor did it possess the needed shock value and resonance of an instant hit – even ones that grow on you. Of course, I knew the EP was never going to be poor, but I wanted top quality so bad that I intentionally forgot about the EP for a week.

When it finally dropped, I gave it a first listen as an excited fan and I was underwhelmed. Then, I listened as a critic to find what was wrong with it. I found some problems like its lack of a genuinely resonant song and the slight similarity nigh uniformity of its sound that it almost sound monotonous. Then, I listened three more times as a critic and wrote a review, but I was not convinced by my findings.

It felt like I was missing something from the EP – like I hadn’t found what makes the EP. 90% of the time, my convictions are made from the first play, but this was different. So, I deleted the review. I listened again and felt even greater cynicism, so I wrote a harsh review that was premised around a career that needs help. But again, I deleted it – I was not convinced – on Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Then, I left the EP for a whole day and picked it up again. This time, I found the rhythm. The problem was that I listened with the weight of expectation as a fan. After having a chat with a Nigerian Journalist, I also realized that I might also have listened like a critic that was looking for faults upon being underwhelmed. After my next few listens, I saw this EP for what it is.

Here is what I found;

O2‘ means Oxygen. Thus, let’s call it the title-track for Oxygene EP. The beat is a cross between R&B, dance-pop and dancehall with the defining organ chords of EDM. On it, Oxlade likens the effect a woman has on him to Oxygen – the most important thing to human life. You lack Oxygen, you die – it’s that simple. In essence, Oxlade says without the woman, he’s dead.

Alongside other corny promises, Oxlade makes the women go awwww. Well, this is beautifully cooked wash with a lazy hook. It’s a good intro. But with a better hook, Oxlade crashes this song into excellence. He didn’t, but the sonic beauty he generated with his backing vocals and the song’s bridge salvaged the song.

The Dera-produced ‘Hold On‘ sounds like a single. If Oxlade‘s team misses it with a bad video and bad promotion, it’s on them. This production is like combining synth-pop with palmwine music percussion, Ghanian pon pon drums and lamba aesthetic. What’s that beautiful guitar? Again, Oxlade alludes to the power which love and a woman’s body have on him.

That hook is just perfect too.

‘Away’ is the Spax-produced lead single for Oxygene EP. Built on a more upbeat palmwine music to the afro-pop level, Oxlade uses it to construct wash and make promises to a woman. I like the little details that have salvaged this EP so far – a guitar here, backing, layered vocals there, a drum arrangement, a bridge or some random string.

Kokose‘ is the quintessential afrobeat song that feels perfectly set for a video birthed in New Afrika Shrine. For once, Oxlade steps away from the land of amorous ecstasy and promises into dance-filled delirium. This time, he’s the dance instructor telling a woman to dance. Bruh, the drum arrangement and percussion on this song is amazing. Spax, take a bow.

‘Weakness’ is an R&B song defined by cloudy legato strings. Again, I like the engineering on this EP -the detail helping Oxlade use his various vocal pitches into verses and hooks hit me. Lyrically, Oxlade tells the story of how a tale of distancing is about to end in marriage. If marketed properly, this could be suited for wedding track lists.

‘Tables Turn‘ is the weakest song on this EP. Nonetheless, like clockwork Moelogo saves it again. The song is based on the concept of poetic justice. Nonetheless, some of Oxlade‘s rhetoric on the song is cliche and the beat is slightly weak.

Final Thoughts

This EP is for everybody. However, it will split opinions for two reasons;

  1. There is a weight of expectation around Oxlade that his talent triggered. For that reason, he will never satisfy a lot of people with this EP.
  2. A lot of people listened too excitedly and listened for what the EP could be and not for what it is.

For those reasons, a lot of people will be underwhelmed by Oxygene EP. In truth, the EP lacks a truly resonant song that fans will naturally gravitate towards. However, after I listened, I found parallels between Oxlade‘s music and Joeboy‘s music in 2019. If hits will ever come from this EP, the hits will have to be triggered by something extra-musical. For Joeboy, it was animated visualizers.

Oxlade needs to find his own extra-musical factor – a TikTok challenged perhaps. After playing Oxygene EP as a plain-minded listener, I do admit that it might never produce a hit. However, if his team execute its strategies well, it well could. Oxygene EP is what I like to call, ‘Germinating music.’

The songs on it are like seeds. The first listen is the implant in your mind – other listens help the seeds germinate. Yes, most brands of music grow on you after you become familiar, but the difference with Oxygene EP is that you won’t need to be subconsciously familiar with it to eventually like it. The music is good, it just needs time.

More importantly, I think this EP proves that Oxlade can make music. What I initially thought was sonic myopia and a monotonous sound, it is actually sonic cohesion. I also like the track listing, it aids progression, segues and transition. The songwriting is not exactly groundbreaking – it is riddled with Nigerian pop culture cliche, but Oxlade sells it with his style and vocals. I can also that Oxlade has an imagination.

As stated earlier, Oxygene EP is always saved or elevated by something – a guitar here, backing, layered vocals there, a drum arrangement, a bridge or some random string. When it all seemed to be going awry on ‘Tables Turn,’ Moelogo saved the day. The problem is that, for a lot of people, the weakness – until they are papered by those aforementioned things – might prove too hard to overlook.

In the end, Oxlade found the bridge between feel-good music and rhythmic melancholia. The major fault of this EP is that it has tendencies to be momentarily dry. Oxlade sometimes dragged words excessively to fill spaces and beat counts. Other times, his hooks are to underwhelming to match the energy his verses build.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Tracklist: 1.5/2

Content and Themes: 1.0/2

Production: 1.7/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.2/2

Execution: 1.5/2

Total:

6.9 – Victory

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