Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Tiwa Savage – 49-99

This pick from Noel is an artist we’ve met before (and whom we really, really seem to like)…

Noel Zhang: Tiwa Savage’s past year or so has been dotted with some pretty highbrow collaborations from Beyoncé to Coldplay, but it’s interesting to see how much more she manages to accomplish on her own turf, in the form of modern-age Fela Kuti tribute. The brass and call-and-response (and, yes, I dare someone to find a better example from the past few years) feel like natural partners to the “hustling woman” narrative, one that feels incredibly fitting for someone like Savage who’s had a 20-year-plus music career in the making far before the Afrobeat explosion of recent years. Not that there’s anything wrong with the high-gloss club/Afrobeat/hip-hop hybrids that have seeped into Western music, but it’s hard to deny how seductive and effortless the sense of rhythm becomes when you strip it down to relative basics like this.

Kayla Beardslee: “49-99” references a line from Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti about poverty in Nigeria and 99 passengers standing on a 49-seat bus. It’s the best kind of “got money” flex, empowering without inducing resentment, and the Yoruba chants of “They want to give me problems / They want to oppress me” suggest a greater purpose. The rhythm skips around without losing its strength, supported by shiny trumpet stabs, and Tiwa Savage is confident as she glides over smooth hooks: the only vocalist worthy of dueting with her in the chorus’s back-and-forth is, of course, Tiwa herself.

Alfred Soto: Stubborn about approaching songs music first, I don’t often consult online lyric postings whether in English or Yoruba. Playing this Nigerian singer-songwriter’s track a couple times required no heavy lifting. With its discrete/discreet guitar squiggles, electronic percussion, and are-they-real-or-sampled horns, “49-99” is a mild intoxicant, relished and remembered with pleasure so long as you don’t take long swigs. But Tiwa Savage knows her Fela Kuti too, and even more than that world-historic force she understands pop music. To arrange a track with such fulsome musical smarts exposes her local audience to a cosmopolitanism that rebukes the austerity to which the #1percent would consign them and the rest. “Rebukes,” not “redresses.” For that we still need politicians.

Edward Okulicz: An aspirational song in the best way; she’s bringing you along because she’s generous, but no mistake, she’s empowering herself first and foremost. The hook comes from her impeccable timing, as if every word has been precision-manufactured and slotted into its very place like a sculpture or a jigsaw puzzle, or one of those 3D jigsaw puzzle things. Of course, Savage says she did it in about an hour, which should send any artist into fits of jealousy.

Will Adams: A well-earned flex, coupled with a robust arrangement over which Tiwa Savage asserts herself. It’s just hook after hook here.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “49-99” is both intensely hot and effortlessly cool. Tiwa Savage’s intimate, honey voice flows boundlessly in Afrobeat heaven, and by the time the track has finished, it’s hard to tell if one minute or one hour has passed. As for the song’s various messages about Nigerian economic hardship, following your dreams in the face of adversaries, and fighting for your own success, I could try to summarise them, but Tiwa Savage herself has already articulated them more succinctly and beautifully than I possibly could.

Reader average: [8] (1 vote)

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One Response to “Tiwa Savage – 49-99”

  1. omg yes another zhang! great blurb noel :)