It was also the first time he would accept the award by himself, on the mainstage. The award follows a major win for him at the 2021 Grammy Awards earlier in 2021, where he took home the gong for Best Global Music Album award for his critically-acclaimed album, Twice As Tall.
At the height of Burna Boy’s stance as the lead poster boy of Afrobeats, Wizkid, a former lead poster boy himself released his critically-acclaimed and commercially successful album, Made In Lagos. While Burna Boy’s ‘Twice As Tall’ debuted at a whopping No. 54, Wizkid’s album debuted at No. 80.
Some will argue that Burna Boy’s album had greater major label influence at release than Wizkid’s album and they will not be entirely wrong. Burna Boy is signed to the American Atlantic Records and Warner Music while Wizkid is signed to RCA UK and Sony Music.
Before both albums dropped, Burna Boy had already cemented his place as the heartthrob of American music capitalism. He was the experiment that ensued after Wizkid and another Nigerian superstar, Davido didn’t match up to the expectations of American music capitalism in 2016.
But at the time, American music capitalism wasn’t as ready for Davido and Wizkid as it was for Burna Boy. As severally reported by Pulse Nigeria on this issue, time and opportunity favoured Burna Boy, but Wizkid and Davido were his forerunners. His run needed them and what happened to them to succeed. They showed American music capitalism what could and couldn’t work.
And in turn, those lessons aided Burna Boy, whose talent is also pristine, generational and expansive. But back to the issue at hand, Burna Boy’s ‘Twice As Tall’ got a better label push over Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’ at release – at least from the outside. The marketing was better, the push was greater, the positioning was better and even the media run/presence was better.
It also didn’t help that Wizkid’s album had to drop just after a national crisis known as #EndSARS. But over the past eight months, the quality and global acceptance of Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’ has slowly revealed something of a ‘competition’ for Burna Boy’s place. After his Grammy, Burna Boy is still not displaced but the gap isn’t as wide anymore.
At the 2021 Grammys, Wizkid also won a Grammy for Best Music Video. Even though Burna Boy won for his own album while Wizkid won for a music video on Beyonce’s song, Wizkid’s currency skyrocketed after that, just as his media presence soared. This also coincided with the growing global impact of ‘Made In Lagos.’
By that time, the album reigned supreme as the No. 1 album in Africa on Apple Music every other week. If an album was strong enough to displace, it from No. 1, the displacement never lasted for more than a few days. Wizkid always came right back to that spot.
‘Twice As Tall’ won the Grammy and was released two months earlier than ‘Made In Lagos,’ but the optics of greater acceptance by the American mainstream audience are skewered in favour of the latter album. Every other week since February 2021, a major American celebrity waxes lyrical about ‘Made In Lagos’ and it trends on social media to no end.
That acceptance and constant conversation has formed a symbiotic relationship with ‘Essence’ featuring Tems, which looks set to be a global phenomenon in Summer 2021. If Saweetie waxes lyrical about ‘Made In Lagos,’ the next minute will see Kevin Hart, Malika Haqq and Khloe Kardashian jamming to ‘Essence.’
In a way, some of those public endorsements for ‘Made In Lagos’ feel like necessary major label plugins via influencer marketing, but nobody can doubt the quality of the album. If Sony Music/RCA are going hard for the album, it only means that American music capitalism has seen something in Wizkid enough to give him another crack.
Wizkid was never fully discarded, but the ‘Made In Lagos’ major label influence is there for sensitive and sensible observers to see, it’s only just hidden in plain sight.
This isn’t quite dissimilar to what Davido experienced after ‘Fall’ started gaining buzz in the US. The difference is that ‘Fall’ is one amazing song with great acceptance, ‘Made In Lagos’ is an entire album with great acceptance and critical acclaim.
The music on the album also co-opts elements of Afro-pop to form the basis of a sound with great western appeal.
The album also seems like the bedrock for the launch of Tems’ international run, which has ramped up over the past three months.
Since Ayra Starr dropped, the Tems push has gotten more aggressive and poignant. In contrast to her past branding, her current brand is slightly more provocative as her ‘famous’ curves get teased to the wilful satisfaction of thirsty men on social media.
Over the past four weeks, ‘Made In Lagos’ has surpassed ‘Twice As Tall’ as the most-streamed African album on Spotify. Stats have revealed that Spotify is the most-used audio streaming platform in the US after YouTube. Digital Music News reports that YouTube has 44% while Spotify has 27% of American adults.
On Audiomack, ‘Made In Lagos’ has over 152 million streams while ‘Twice As Tall’ has over 210 million streams – the highest of any African album ever.
But interestingly, ‘Ginger’ by Wizkid and Burna Boy is the best-performing song from ‘Made In Lagos’ on Audiomack.
On Boomplay, ‘Twice As Tall’ is also the most-streamed album ever.
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Did Burna Boy contribute to Wizkid’s ability to close the gap?
Some will argue in the affirmative to this question because ‘Twice As Tall’ seemed visibly recorded with a Grammy-driven ambition and less commercially viability, in terms of the sonic construction of its songs.
While ‘Twice As Tall’ remains a better album in the opinion of this writer, ‘Made In Lagos’ has a more appealing sonic construction and more relatable music.
The latter album also grants people a chance to simply enjoy songs about life and less about socio-politics. However, nothing suggests that ‘Made In Lagos’ couldn’t have had this run if Burna Boy had made another ‘African Giant.’ ‘Made In Lagos’ is just that good and accessible.
Is Burna’s place under threat?
Nobody can answer that. What we know is that Burna Boy’s place as the face of Afrobeats is still clear, but the gap isn’t as wide and clearly defined as it was in 2019, until October 2020. It’s also not helping that ‘Kilometre,’ even though it’s a great song, is struggling for sustained acceptance despite having healthy numbers while ‘Essence’ is tearing it up with probable major label influence.
In a way, it also feels like Wizkid and Burna Boy are also tools of competition by two major labels; Warner and Sony. It feels like both labels simply want to outdo each other and two Nigerian artists are greatly benefiting from it. A lot might depend on who produces the first successful Billboard Hot 100 hit.
Will the Grammy 2022 be more informative?
Possibly. As noted by Jon Caramonica on his post-Grammy 2021 episode of Popcast by the New York Times, avenues to discover music have become decentralized. He noted that some Americans discover and endorse music after major awards like the Grammys.
All things being equal and on his form over the past three years, Burna Boy is unlikely to release an average album by any means. Although Angelique Kidjo’s latest album also failed to significantly convince critically and commercially, one can assume that alongside Burna Boy, she will get another Grammy nod.
Word on the street is that Odogwu’s next album drops in August or September 2021.
The recording academy has methodical madness to play favourites. What remains to be seen is what could happen to ‘Made In Lagos’ from a Grammy standpoint. While the album doesn’t characteristically ooze ‘Grammy material,’ its continued acceptance and positioning could spring a surprise.
This year, the Rap category showed that the academy is definitely capable of springing surprises and ditching its own model. Some will even argue that Burna Boy’s win further proves that they can spring surprises and abandon their own model. Thus, if ‘Made In Lagos’ gets a Grammy nod, it would be unexpected, but maybe not surprising.
However, we’re unlikely to see three African pop albums in the same category, even though we saw Burna Boy, Tinarimwen and the Afrobeats-themed Antibalas album in the same category this year.
What is more likely is a nomination for ‘Essence’ in the newly minted ‘Best Global Song’ category. What could have been Africa’s favourite is Master KG’s ‘Jerusalema,’ but research shows that the song will not fall into the year in review.
For now, fingers crossed… xoxo.