Sunday 3 October 2021

After a four-year break, Asa returns— but she needs no reintroduction. Her fourth studio album, Lucid chronicles the 12-year journey from her critically acclaimed debut eponymous album, to now. Between the years, the guiding constant in her work remains: What does it sound like when love governs life? As Asa sees the next stage of her artistry, this album answers the question.


With a voice as rich as her catalog of inspirations, the Paris-born, Nigeria native singer-songwriter and multi-platinum selling recording artist fuses indie pop, jazz-driven, and soft-soul, taking cues from cross-continental greats– from Fela Kuti to Miriam Makeba; King Sunny Adé to Sade; Tina Turner to Lenny Kravitz. But on Lucid, Asa doesn’t find her voice; she amplifies it.

The album is a continuation of the music marked by maturation unbound by age or time that fans fell in love with from the start. Though, it wasn’t planned. She had just reemerged from an intense relationship, and both the heartbreak and healing set the tone for Lucid. What she wasn’t ready to share in the past became grounds for bridging a different kind of connection to fans; a more personal one. She puts the past and the present pain and perseverance on record for all to hear and feel. But the shared love stories lingering in the back of her mind that turned into lyrics came second to her own. Here, Asa brings her background to the forefront. In her words, she was “just living and writing,” extracting from experience— from the painful to the joyous and everything in between. Because after all, as she notes, “artists are human first.”

As the western world familiarizes itself with Nigeria’s booming afro-fusion hip-hop, afrobeat, dancehall, pop hybrid, the other side of the country’s sounds may seem like uncharted territory. But Asa’s been present and persistent in her purpose; a singular, distinct voice that cuts through the noise.

With Lucid, the audience travels with her storied songs and sounds, but Asa’s right at home. Here, her emotive range strikes again. Whether it’s piercing through the surface of the soul with “words like dagger” as on “The Beginning” or when she croons with conviction and calmness over steady guitar chords on the soft melancholy of being held hostage in a hard love affair in the album’s opening “Murder In The USA.” Throughout standouts “Femi Mo,” “Good Thing,” and “My Dear” she switches between English, and Yoruba, but the emotion laced in each lyric needs no translation. Asa’s art is not foreign; it’s human— encapsulating both the universal and the personal. On “Torn,” her tone tender and robust, what she emotes is less about romance and more about what it looks like to feel in every instance, from every layer with less raw, and more luculent lyrics. Unmoved by the heavy forces that bring forth a project of this emotional weight, Asa stays in her own pre-paved lane— remaining true to her sound and, more importantly, herself.

Lucid is about love in different guises. Asa discards the rigamorale of romance so oft sung about to simplify love in a way that still keeps its complexities intact. The playful and painful sides of love, juxtaposed turn the desperate and angst-filled sides. She doesn’t just sing about love but rather satiates the human hunger to describe the emotion that’s so common, yet misunderstood. Sentimental moments turn into timeless tunes, and Asa’s vision and voice remain ever so clear.

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