We will remember 2020 for many things: a scary pandemic, a global shutdown in response to said pandemic, the rise and fall of the Houseparty app and, for music lovers, the surprise takeover of Omah Lay.
Armed with kickass melodies, relaxing mid-tempo production and romantic declarations like, “You don burst my eyeglass”, Omah Lay quickly became the year’s breakout artist. And in the same year big shots like Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Olamide all dropped well-received albums, Omah Lay somehow managed to remain a major fixture in the musical conversation.
His debut EP, Get Layd, was a significant departure from what Nigerians were used to at the time. Carefully blending R&B and Afropop, Omah Lay wasn’t singing about shutting the club down or living his best life. Instead, he delved into honest conversations about love and sex. And with everyone stuck at home trying to figure life out, the EP felt like the comfort music we needed at the time. A classic case of the right time and place.
Unlike most of the habits we picked up during the pandemic (Is anyone still baking Banana bread every day?), Omah Lay’s music is one thing we haven’t been able to shake off. His second EP, What Have We Done, gave us the reflective Godly and Can’t Relate, as well as a fitting remix to Damn alongside 6LACK. Features with Olamide and Ajebo Hustlers followed, further cementing his position as a hitmaker.
In all of this, Omah Lay has maintained a narrative of longing. He’s either longing for love on songs like Bad Influence, for understanding on songs like Can’t Relate, reciprocated feelings on Attention, closure on Understand or peace of mind on Godly.
Can Omah Lay maintain this emo boy narrative with the world back on the dancefloor? But most importantly, will it slap like it did two years ago?
Omah Lay sets the stage with the album’s opening tracks, Recognize and I, in which he tries to convince his listeners he’s destined for greatness (although a part of me feels he’s trying to convince himself). The introspective tracks are followed by the sex-driven Bend You and the early single, Woman. On the Blaqbonez-esque Bend You, Omah Lay gets pornhub-level graphic, talking about all the ways he could make his girl “shake like say she get epilepsy”. While Woman also involves some backbreaking, there’s a promise of romance and a possible pregnancy since he has no plan of pulling out.
EmoLay (Emotional Omah Lay, get it?) makes a comeback to talk about using alcohol to escape imposter syndrome and loneliness on I’m A Mess, before admitting to another escapist vice, marijuana, on the reflective Temptation. He, however, finds himself, and some solace, on Never Forget and Safe Haven.
We finally get to vibe on Soso and How To Luv, which has a sprinkle of amapiano and lyrics that shout Kcee out for singing Limpopo. Omah Lay calls on Tay Iwar to assist him to the finish line with Tell Everybody, a song that successfully straddles the line between seduction and emotional yearnings. It might not get the love it deserves now, but best believe Tell Everybody is bound to be a fave after several listens.
After an emotional rollercoaster, Purple Song closes the 14-track album that still ends up with a run time of less than 40 minutes. It feels right to end this way as Omah Lay sings about not letting his love go no matter what. While the song sounds like an ode to a love interest on first listen, it’s better to picture it as Omah Lay’s love letter to music.
Omah Lay has always been honest with his music, but Boy Alone finds the Port Harcourt native digging deeper than he’s ever done before. His ability to create melodies and laidback music while addressing heartbreak, longing and loss sets him apart from most of his peers today.
While the production feels monotonous and makes the album sound like one long song sometimes, Omah Lay’s lyrics get the MVP title for deftly sharing stories that feel authentic to who he is. On Boy Alone, nothing feels contrived or made up. You can vibe all you want, but last last, you’ll listen to Omah Lay’s story.
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