On the 25th of March, one of Nigeria’s biggest music stars of the moment, Rema, dropped his highly anticipated debut album, Rave and Roses. After three years of back to back EPs and hit singles, everyone was itching to listen to a full album from the Mavin wunderkind. While the album offered hits, some people debated whether it was a cohesive album or just a collection of singles.
This had me thinking, “What exactly does it mean for an album to be cohesive?” but most importantly, “Is it even necessary?”. To answer my burning questions, I reached out to three music lovers who also happen to be in the business as well, and this is what they said.
Ogagus — Music Executive and A&R
What does it mean when people say an album is cohesive?
For an album to be cohesive, it has to be beautiful to listen to from start to finish. Even when it’s a bunch of songs thrown together, there’s still a feeling you get that gives the perception that the artist and their team put a lot of thought into creating a central theme and arranging the songs in a sequence that flows. For instance, when we recorded Chike’s Boo of the Booless, we went in with love being our central theme, so most of the songs were created with that in mind. And then we arranged our final songs so people listening felt like they were listening to a story. Cohesive albums are the best to listen to.
But does an album need to be cohesive for it to be successful?
Not really. I’ve seen a lot of albums become hits without cohesiveness. But it’s always better when you have both — a cohesive album that’s also commercially successful.
What’s a cohesive album that really worked?
Mehn the most recent one has to be Boy Spyce’s self-titled EP. It’s supposed to introduce him as an artist, and it does the job well. From the first track Dreams to the last track Destiny, everything tied in perfectly. Then there’s Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall and Ayra Starr’s 19 and Dangerous. They all felt like complete projects.
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As A&R, you help artists select the songs that make their albums, how does this work?
Like I said, some artists record with a theme, while others just record however their emotions lead them. What I do is listen to everything and help them select the songs that can tell an actual story. The songs that work together. Some artists already have a sense of what will work and that makes the process easier. Then there are times when halfway into making an album, the picture gets clearer and we finally have an idea of the sound we want. Then we make sure everything else follows that sound.
Do you think the fans notice whether or not an album is cohesive?
Artists feel like fans don’t, but trust me, they do. The albums that get award recognition and dominate conversations are albums that are cohesive. It’s a fact.
Belema Iyo — Writer and Afrobeats Enthusiast
What’s a recent album that you felt was cohesive from start to finish?
This one is hard, but an album that worked for me recently was Asa’s V. That album does things to me and it was very well thought out.
How about an album that wasn’t cohesive but still worked?
I can’t think of a recent album, but I went back to listen to Wizkid’s Superstar and that album does nothing when it comes to having a theme or even mixing and mastering. It’s just an album of jams that introduced us to Wizkid and I think it did that well.
But does every album have to follow a theme or be cohesive?
I mean it won’t guarantee that your album will be a hit but honestly, isn’t it better to put out good work than something mediocre? If an album is not cohesive, people will move on fast. I always feel like artists should put out projects that will live well past the three singles they put out. Make sure every song has the potential to be that song.
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Nathan Shaiyen — Artist and Producer
What goes into recording an album for you?
A lot. LOL. I start with conceptualising the whole album by narrowing down the topics I’d like to touch on and the album’s general theme. I do this so I don’t go in blind without a sense of direction. The next stage is figuring out the overall sound of the album. How do I want to move from track to track? Will I put breaks in between? Et cetera. Once this is done, I start writing and I try to stick to the theme I decided on.
Do you always know the number of tracks you want to put out?
Nope. I record as much as I can, and then I look at my concept and select all the songs that’ll tell the story from start to finish. I tend to have leftover tracks that I later release as singles.
So in all of this, is cohesiveness important to you?
I’ll say yes, it’s necessary for me. But it depends on what I’m trying to get out of the album as well. For albums that are cohesive, there’s probably a lot of replay value because it’s a story. When it’s not cohesive, fans just tend to pick and choose whatever they like. And I believe artists make projects so fans can listen to it holistically and get something out of it. When it’s not cohesive, I run the risk of people not understanding what I’m going for.
So fans notice these things?
Speaking as a fan myself, I do. We’re in an era of appreciating artistry a little bit more. We’re more conscious now and tapped into what our artists are putting out. While you may never fully get an artist’s intention, you can tell when everything is connected. And that’s important.
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