Friday, April 9th, 2021

Zuchu – Sukari

Great, but whenever is starch going to get the musical treatment it deserves?


Will Adams: As sweet as the title suggests, “Sukari” is a buoyant piece of Bongo Flava in which Zuchu’s lovestruck smile is audible. Extra point for the backing vox doubling down on the joy.

Ady Thapliyal: Zuchu almost quit music back in 2019 as her career stalled out, but her legendary mother, taarab star Khadija Kopa, gave her a hand and introduced her to Diamond Platnumz, the rapper and label owner who would become Zuchu’s biggest booster. “Sukari” is the happy ending to this tale, where a daughter proves herself to her mother and mentor, and a star is born in her own right. “Sukari” became a viral sensation on TikTok thanks to its licking-sugar-off-your-hand dance move, which strikes the right memetic balance between evocative and easily replicable. As a song, “Sukari” stands out for the elements drawn from her mother’s taarab, like a female backing chorus and Arab-style vocal ornamentation (the trill in the final “su-kaᵃa-ri/sugar sukari” of every chorus). 

Juana Giaimo: The backing vocals that start in the second verse (EEEH!) are so good that I’d like to add them whenever I’m speaking (KULAA!). “Sukari” is fun, summery and so light that it needs those strong backing vocals. I wish they were in other parts of the song too.

Iain Mew: “Ehhhhhh!” There is sweetness all around, but it reaches its height when the rising cry of the backing vocals cuts across and sets it off brilliantly.

Alfred Soto: I can imagine what this charmer’s like live: the backup vocals hamming it up, rolling their eyes, gesturing with hands, Zuchu carried away in mock exasperation.

Jessica Doyle: She’s definitely cute, and I can see why the combination of double entendre and relatively relaxed beat got popular: it’s a good blast-out-of-your-window-on-a-warm-sunny-day kind of song. But I’m probably not going to blast it myself, as her voice sounds pitch-shifted in a way that grates on my ear. (I like this delivery better, but it’s not right for the song’s atmosphere.)

Thomas Inskeep: I think Zuchu has a good voice, but based on “Sukari,” it’s hard to tell. Though to her credit, she definitely sounds distinctive, it’s soaked in damned autotune. It’s a shame, because the backing singers sound great, and the song’s got quite an in-the-pocket, tight little Afrobeats groove to it. But that groove gets this almost absurdly summery-sounding song over. 

William John: If your blood sugar’s low, then here’s the love song for you: a track with such overwhelmingly treacly, saccharine production that any possibility of its central conceit carrying any nuance is eliminated.

Scott Mildenhall: “Sukari”‘s insouciant shifts between seduction and public health warning are amusing. Zuchu smiles as much when telling you her sugar is sweet as when she tells you it’s deadly. Superficially slight but blatantly powerful, the message is one of everything in moderation — or rather, the command.

Nortey Dowuona: A swirling guitar spins us through onto the shimmering synths and scoop drums, which spin around Zuchu’s sweetly ladled croon frosted in sugary auto tune, while juggling bass and warm, charming background vocalists echo back to her, Zuchu having gently assembled them in this pot full of sugar. 

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