Since Tekno Miles’ megahit Duro dropped, he has been on a 2-year winning streak, relegating his former boss, Iyanya, to pop’s sideshow. There are multiple metaphors to explain the Iyanya-Tekno situation between mentor and mentee: Wladimir Klitschko v Anthony Joshua, Morpheus v Neo, Miyagi v Daniel. Iyanya has battled naysayers who wrote his career off. “Anybody that compares me with Tekno doesn’t even know what he or she is doing…you don’t even know what you are doing; you must be dumb!” he told TheNetNG while addressing the issue.
To silence raging voices, he throws his fourth project which becomes needed coup de théâtre in an era flooded with young pop stars. On ‘Signature’ EP, Iyanya shows he hasn’t lost his waist-whirling, body-contorting magic to send many listeners into frenzy. ‘Signature’ EP is typical Iyanya delivering standard pop record: catchy hooks, simple lyrics, dance-ready beats. Although ‘Applaudise’ album tanked, ‘Signature’ offers him redemption – and on the project, all sins are forgiven.
On the first single off the EP, Up To Something, he gets his brag on, but like one constrained by circumstances, he blurts: “You know we get the master plan to make the money pile up/Look what you made me do.” For an artist hit with allegations of being broke and living a lie, by fans and even a US-based music promoter, Don Demoe, Iyanya unwilling has to respond. One assumes flinging his bank statement in the face of critics isn’t his MO. But it will be naïve to expect a mainstream act not to call his money when questioned. Bragging isn’t a new field for the 30-year-old Calabar-born singer. On his true breakout hit, Kukere, he sang: “I get the money oh.” Even though there was scant evidence of said money, as he hardly got paid gigs, he took on an optimistic view of life. All it takes a Nigerian artist to go from part futuristic I-don-hammer declaration to full get-your-brag-on mode is one hit song, and Iyanya proved that postulation. But who will blame him? Money must be made. And on this Mavin release, that’s what drives most of the songs. Danceable tracks define the soundscape of ‘Signature’ EP: from the aforementioned Up To Something to Odo Ye Wu to Celebrate to Baby Answer. To craft one of the project’s highlights, Odo Ye Wu, Iyanya digs into his past discography, rearranging the half-formed Ghanaian-fusion that was Efya/Sarkodie-assisted Macoma for aural pleasure.
As expected of love songs, Odo Ye Wu coasts on a mid-tempo production from Don Jazzy; the beat borrow melodies from Ghanaian highlife, evidenced in guitar twangs and soft strings, and hook inspired by Ajuju’s Chante. The song opens the EP on a high for lovers’ dance, and whets appetite of listeners for a lovely experience. Making dance music has been Iyanya’s forte since he switched from R&B to pop, and he displays it again on Baby Answer. Back in 2014, within the space of five days, both Skales and Runtown dropped songs that sampled The Peacocks Guitar Band’s ’73 hit, Eddie Quansa, Give It To Me and Baby Answer respectively. But Iyanya betters the use of the sample over softly-plucked guitar strings and light percussion on Baby Answer. He lavishes praise on his “superwoman”, singing in an Igbo lilt, “And when she dey I’m happy/Oh my God, I’m lucky oh/That is my baby, my baby oh/She get style, she get groove/And when she smile, I dey smile back too — from January to December.” In Nigeria, love comes with a dance, and that explains the marriage of heart matters with the dance floor, especially at our weddings – dance is a key ingredient for igniting love. The central theme of dance isn’t lost when he navigates his passions on the Don Jazzy-produced sensual Hold On. The two had previously collaborated on the rather crass Gift, where both artists compared their genitals to fruits, vegetables and snakes, with nothing left to imagination. Though there lies a bit of confusion about the lyrics when he sings, “And if person fit to take your man, I’m sorry to say that he is not your man/Wetin be your own be your own/If no be your own, leave am alone/We take it one step at a time/We go get there somewhere somehow/Hold on/When e enter, you go feel am”: Is it an inspirational song, heartbreak song or bedroom number?
However, things go awry when he further milks the dance theme on Baby Fresh-produced Celebrate, which gets littered with trite lyrics and borrowed melodies from Waconzy’s Celebrate, Dr Sid’s Pop Champagne, and Dr Alban’s It’s My Life. His tribute to lost ones, including his parents and elder brother, fails too, with an underwhelming Poe complicating things with his opening “I was scared to jump on this song ‘cause I thought I didn’t have the words” line. One hoped Iyanya would have made a befitting track after three albums without a dedication to the ones he lost – save that passable line on My Story track – but what we get is a forgettable ode. Despite these venial lapses, Iyanya ‘Signature’ EP offers an enjoyable experience, and one can picture the new Mavin screaming the final statement on Odo Ye Wu to naysayers and critics: “I don win!”