A Pulse Review of Chike’s “The Brother’s Album”

While many eagerly awaited the release of her second album, there was still the awareness that making her debut wasn’t going to be a troll in the park.

Thirty months after the release of his debut album, Chike has finally decided he’s ready for his second act which he calls ‘Brother’s Keeper’.

In his second album, Chike offers himself to a wider audience while struggling to retain the artistic elements that have brought him success.

The album cover offers a first glimpse of what can be seen as the thought process behind the project. Chike poses in a sleek designer outfit while recreating a pose made famous by the great Michael jackson and Lionel Richie. Chike’s homage to the great pop icon and R&B figure suggests to me that he rises from a mere R&B artist with a significant following that consists of mostly female fans into an R&B superstar icon and a pop star whose fame transcends demographics.

This deduction finds its origin in the album which opens on ‘On the moon’ that captures the excitement that accompanies success. One can easily hear the confidence and artistic freedom that allows an R&B star to open his album with a commercial Amapiano sound. On this single, Chike spreads its metaphorical wings and soars at an altitude close to the moon. He’s earned that freedom and he’s eager to share that excitement.

“Brother’s Keeper” is a phrase that stems from the biblical warning and Chike borrows from these ecclesiastical teachings in exploring the universal subject of love.

On ‘Tell me’ Chike taps into her romantic side by creating a danceable and appealing love song. The song is a step away from the R&B style that brought him fame as he turns to crowd vocals and street-pop progression to deliver a potential Tik Tok hit. On ‘Spell’, he slows down as he stays on the subject of love and explores what it means to be hopelessly, helplessly, and wholly in love. The R&B song is the Chike’s first encore that stunned listeners on the ‘Boo of the Booleses’ therefore, it will be a bit of a surprise if he turns out to be among the favorites on the album.

Love is a recurring subject on the album and Chike explores the different elements of love. On ‘Hard to find’, it addresses the challenges of finding love in a modern world. Flavor bends the melody to deliver a verse that, when paired with the chorus and strings, carries the Igbo R&B cadence popularized by Flavor. Chike turns to Highlife in ‘Good things’ as he explores the subject of patience, a subject he would certainly know a thing or two about given his journey to success. He even infuses Yoruba into the song as he tries to reach out to a wider audience.

Likewise in “My Africa”he opts for a pan-African song and he taps South African Azana to craft a single that has familiar strings and horns that run through all of traditional Sub-Saharan music. Although the condescending elements of the song cannot be missed, they dovetail with Chike’s intention to be an African superstar.

Chike explores unconditional love on ‘Zamo’ for he demands unwavering loyalty from a lover who has enjoyed his success while simultaneously engaging in a reminder of his own fallibility. His voice is well behind the orchestra as he delivers an R&B song that carries the emotions to inspire the sobriety needed to enjoy the single but not enough vocal elasticity to wow listeners.

The orchestra returns to play on “Pour Me a Drink” where Chike uses a pop-rap style combined with a soothing voice to discuss the mental and emotional strain that comes with love. Chike presents an opera performance while being backed by an orchestra as he grapples with the subject of loss in ‘No more no less’ as he explores the vulnerability that accompanies the loss of a loved one.

The slow tempo inaugurated by ‘Zamo’ and who remained in “Pour Me a Drink” continued in ‘You deserve’ where Chike partners with YCEE to deliver a sensational R&B song. On ‘You deserve’ Chike explores the “It’s not you it’s me” common element in modern love. YCEE laid down a sensational verse over a perfect baseline that combined with reverb to create what might be the album’s best single.

‘In ‘Sufficient’, Chike reminds us of the element of himself that he inexplicably attempts to undress in his second album. The delivery and pacing carry the sentimental touch necessary to connect with Chike’s exploration of the insecurity that accompanies unrequited love.

Chike’s ‘Boo of the Booleses’ is considered a classic of modern afrobeats primarily due to its overall quality and the skip-free nature of the album. His second doesn’t carry the same flawless album sequencing. ‘Winner’ has a Highlife progression and ‘Wrong’ is an attempt to use crowd singing and a ‘Bug’ style beat and delivery to mark commercial success. Both singles can be seen as fillers and a fairly average selection of songs that are arranged in succession to create a moment of weakness.

On ‘Move on’, Chike uses Reggae to make it clear that he won’t settle for less as he explores the subject of self-love. The single is another Pop offering that existing fans might have a hard time digesting. The exploration with Pop continues in ‘Only god knows,’ it uses the Hip Hop baseline.

Chike returns to R&B closing the album with the ‘Please’ where he pleads that he be allowed to live in the moment and enjoy the fruits of his success without being overwhelmed by the expectations and demands of associates, friends and family.

In ‘Brother’s Keeper’, Chike is trying to establish herself as a mainstream popstar and act. While some tracks from his first album like ‘Nakupenda’ and “If You Don’t Love Me” are essentially Pop, he makes a conscious and rather hasty decision to move away from the vital markers that endeared him to listeners.

In his second album, Chike explores the different sides of love as he pursues mainstream stardom while trying to offer himself to a wider audience.

Chike successfully delivered a few top songs which, when stripped down, are great singles. However, as a project, there are moments of sonic dissonance where listeners can get lost in the sound. Also, there were song templates that just didn’t work, like ‘Bad’, ‘My Africa’, ‘Winner’, and ‘Move on’.

Globally, “Brother’s Keeper” is a good album that isn’t great, mainly because of Chike’s ambitions. Maybe that’s the price he pays to be a mainstream superstar.

Writing, themes and delivery: 1.7/2

Appreciation and Satisfaction: 1.5/2

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