Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Temi Dollface – Pata Pata

A++ would buy all the product placements in this video.

Jonathan Bogart: I’d use a phrase like “the Janelle Monáe of Nigeria” if I didn’t know that it would be misleading in at least two ways: first, Temi is proportionately more popular in Nigeria than Janelle is in the US; and second, she’s nobody’s adjunct. “Pata Pata” is, I’m informed, Lagosian slang for “let it be,” but this snarky, sassy, stomping breakup song doesn’t leave anything where it found it. Song of the goddamn year.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “Baby, what would you like to hear?” Temi Dollface begins “Pata Pata” with a dialogue where there has been none — emotional stasis is the topic here, necessary endings are planned, problems are divulged. It’s the standard I’m-done-with-this-scrub pop narrative. Dollface is aware that you’ve heard this tale before. One gets the feeling that the artist’s also asking how you, the listener, would like this story to be framed. Would you like it with some humour? There she is, batting eyelashes and deciding it would be too insincere to claim that she ever loved the dope. Some relief? The verses’ mouth-music backing vocals ease towards a future-azonto shuffle designed for speaker devastation. Some metatextuality? “Pata Pata” touches on relationship dramas by Rose Royce and George Benson during the verses, revisits Kelis’s Neptunian odysseys in a spacey middle-eight and turns a Yoruban sample of the title into a Greek chorus. Some heart, maybe? By the climax, Dollface has allowed the frustration to bubble over. She pushes her voice with gusto into each corners of the track, switching between English and Nigerian patois as the emotion flows out. Would you like all of that in approximately four minutes? Done and done. “Baby, what would you like to hear?” What else could you possibly want?

Iain Mew: Temi’s is a massively assured and flexible performance, sounding equally commanding over the wide menu of fizzy electro and soul that “Pata Pata” offers. The moment that won me over completely, though, is “we can go on pretending like baby it’s alright”, sweet enough to show she’s tempted to do so but rolling seamlessly into mocking the very idea.

Alfred Soto: Indelible hook with the precision of a piston engine, but placed against the underwritten verses it carries an awful lot of weight. And it’s four minutes long.

Daisy Le Merrer: With a glum marching band beat like a slowed down “Countdown,” this would have made much more sense of this title than Beyonce’s giddy mess does. Temi Dollface starts on the brink of disaster, asking the tough questions, and ends things when they have nowhere else to go. She’s a brilliant singer, staying on top of a potentially overwelming beat with great poise, just like she’s navigating the end of the relationship she’s singing about.

Anthony Easton: I love how the part where “it’s alright” pitches up or down, like a wave, depending on where the rest of the production is. The siren bit is equally interesting. It’s almost manic in places. The rest of it, you know we’ve heard this, and we know what it says, so it’s kind of middle-of-the-road — but it has potential.

Edward Okulicz: With a bassline that’s halfway between electro fanfare and the air rapidly leaving a deflating balloon, “Pata Pata” grabs the ear from the first beat. Temi Dollface’s performance is a thing of wonder too — ironic boredom wedded to one killer hook after the other. The middle-eight gets weird and funky — less a breakdown than a breakout — and the chant of “pata pata” is novel to Anglophone ears while being simple enough to earworm. This is original and creative pop of the kind we need a lot more of in the world.

Brad Shoup: The bass flaps like hope deflated. It’s not a sound I can tolerate in large stretches, but the “we can go on pretending” hook — which won’t be leaving my head ’til the weekend — provides the inflection point. I like this: it gallops.

Reader average: [8.27] (18 votes)

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16 Responses to “Temi Dollface – Pata Pata”

  1. I’m excited to see that this song is so popular among reviewers!

    If I may, the correct translation of pata pata is “completely” (see Temi’s explanation in the behind the scenes video here and it is a Yoruba word that found its way into the Nigerian Pidgin lexicon (not patois, which is spoken in Jamaica, and not specific to Lagos).

    It would be great to see more African pop artists featured on TSJ, particularly if reviewers are able to speak to the influence of other genres of African music – Afrobeat, highlife, makossa, kwaito, etc. – that inform pop music on the continent. (In this case, I think there was a missed opportunity to talk about Fela Kuti – the pata pata callback is basically a sample of every Fela song ever.)

  2. Thanks for the info!

    Speaking for myself, I didn’t (and don’t) really know whether “pata pata” crops up in other Nigerian songs. Would’ve felt goofy if mentioning Fela — perhaps the African musician most famous to Western audiences — had come across like “this use of scratching really reminds me of Grandmaster Flash”.

    “Pata Pata” actually first reminded me of the Miriam Makeba song of the same title, but that’s one of those “hey everyone, here’s a new dance” and Makeba is from South Africa, of course.

    Could you recommend any websites for pop news from Africa? It’s yet another of those things that I have an interest in but don’t really have the grasp of. Would love to find new singles without using labels’ YouTube accounts, which don’t always update when the song is released.

  3. This is really all kinds of awesome.

  4. My mistake. Thanks for the correction. (Patois is a generic linguistic term for specific kinds of dialects, not at all limited to Jamaican English; still, I should have said slang.)

  5. Thanks for the responses. My preferred website for Nigerian/West African pop is, but you can also find music (sometimes with more analysis) at I wish I had suggestions for East and Southern Africa but they’re not my areas of expertise… Funke at often plugs music from all over the continent (along with a lot of other stuff), so her music tag might be a good place to explore.

    Jonathan, I don’t mean to be contrary here – I’d simply offer for consideration, in case of future singles from Nigeria being reviewed, that Nigerian Pidgin is not slang but rather a distinct language with its own grammar and lexicon unique from other Nigerian languages. Many Nigerian artists choose to use Pidgin because it can be understood by everybody, across regions, social classes, and education levels. A few Nigerian artists do use local slang (for example, DJ Zeez in Fokasibe; Dagrin in Pon Pon Pon and other works), but when they do, they have to spend time explaining what things mean so that people not from their area can understand (and so that radio stations in other parts of the country will play the song).

    Brad, I appreciate your viewpoint. My observation is that it’s fairly rare for Nigerian pop artists to draw so directly on Fela’s work (though this past year or so, his son Femi has been doing a number of collabos with folks like Wizkid, JJC, and Jesse Jagz). Artists tend to have a tension about “do I make this a commercial track/club banger” or “do I try to go ‘conscious'” and the decision to draw on Fela comes with a lot of politics attached because Fela’s music was explicitly “conscious.” If you were pointing out Temi’s use of Pidgin to say she was referencing Fela, that would be analogous to scratching/Grandmaster Flash, because Fela did pave the way for Pidgin to be used in popular music more generally. But the call/response, with that particular filter, is a deliberate echo of Fela’s Afrobeat and something that doesn’t happen in the pop music industry (keeping in mind that Nigerian pop is not Afrobeat). For Temi to use that almost-sample positions her as “authentically” Nigerian, though she has spent much time in the UK, and she’s communicating that she knows her musical roots, even though her genre is not the same. It also adds to the retro feel expressed in the video (since Fela was most active in the 70’s and 80’s). Not necessarily important to a person’s first-listen enjoyment of the song, but I think in the overall analysis, it’s as important as the other references Daniel suggested.

    (Not trying to upstage you all here – just that this song stumbled into the hornet’s nest of my senior thesis… Glad to continue discussion elsewhere if you’d like – I can provide references, etc. if it would be helpful.)

  6. i strongly agree that we should cover nigerian music here.

  7. That was rad, Kay. Thank you.

  8. Thank you indeed.

  9. Kay, shoot us a link to yourself on Twitter or a blog! It’d be great to keep up with you. And cheers for all the comments, really helpful. I was hesitant on calling out Fela too but that’s great to have some background.

  10. The behind the scenes video is fascinating – I was curious about whether the non-performing voice would be American or Nigerian – completely surprised by cut-glass English :)

  11. also, kay–fucking amazing work, and i really want to read everything you have ever written or will write

  12. Thanks for your illuminating comments Kay.

  13. Weirdly it sounds like she sampled the beginning of The Carpenter’s “This Masquerade” to brilliant effect and brings it to a whole new other level, I’m actually loving this…

  14. ditto to the above moar kay

  15. Hi fellow Kay stans! The link you’re looking for is this (radio-palava on Tumblr if we can’t do HTML in comment boxes).

    (the most recent rumor I’ve heard for B1A4’s comeback is November, which gives you plenty of time to go through her archives.)

  16. In case you haven’t seen it: her cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” from a few years ago: Iron Maiden is now Stevie Wonder.