‘Playboy’ review: Afrobeats’ latest global star makes the step up – Fireboy DML
Famous Nigerian singer, Fireboy DML recently declared to NME that he’s intent on etching his name into Afrobeats history. Given the huge success of his 2021 international hit ‘Peru’, which prompted a remix from renowned Afrobeats fan Ed Sheeran that reached Number Two in the UK Charts back in February, the 26-year-old Nigerian artist’s place in the genre’s history books already looks assured.
With more eyes on him than ever before, the arrival of Fireboy’s third album ‘Playboy’ marks his first big solo statement post-‘Peru’ – but that doesn’t mean the singer-songwriter’s music has dipped in quality in order to please the masses. Take the opening track ‘Change’, which tugs at the heartstrings. Set over floating piano chimes, Fireboy acknowledges that his “life’s about to change” given that his talents are being recognised on a much bigger scale than before.
That candidness takes a back seat, though, on the self-assured and party-ready likes of ‘Bandana’ (featuring Afropop artist Asake) and the title track, where the themes become more promiscuous and playful. Fireboy’s strong sense of confidence continues to flow as he more than holds his own on collaborations with Chris Brown (‘Diana’) and Rema (‘Compromise’). The former joins Fireboy for a soothing yet sultry love song that sees the two men pouring their hearts out in a bid to keep the titular woman in their life. Breakthrough Jamaican star Shenseea then interjects to give a woman’s perspective on the situation: “Haffi get a gyal like me / This here pum pum high quality / UFO, mi no ordinary / And that’s why you want me, up me.”
Fireboy’s link-up with Rema on ‘Compromise’ is the album’s finest moment of collaboration. This long-awaited single has a smoothness you’d normally associate with Burna Boy or WizKid, and as such comes across like a Gen-Z version of the Nigerian superstars’ joint single ‘Ginger’. There’s an unspoken synergy between Fireboy and Rema here, though, that is simply irresistible.
The album’s true stand-out moment, however, is the riveting ‘Timoti’. This track shows off Fireboy’s ability as a vocalist, as he utilises his native language of Yoruba to accentuate both his flow and vocal melodies. While momentarily steering away from the record’s overarching themes of partying and love, ‘Timoti’ sees Fireboy assert his newfound position of authority in Afrobeats and beyond: “Everybody confirm / Enemies bow down / All of them calm down.”
Fireboy has blazed his way into the hearts of Afrobeats and pop fans alike over the past year, and the Sheeran-featuring ‘Peru”s inclusion on the tracklist of ‘Playboy’ is a further nod to his rise. But this album more than demonstrates that its creator is no one-hit wonder, validating his ever-increasing fame. With his talent now on show to the world, Fireboy DML is stepping up at just the right moment.
Release date: August 5
Record label: YBNL Nation / Empire