Nigeria's Joeboy makes life-affirming pop music – Chicago Reader


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Throughout the next few months, Chicago will host several concerts featuring contemporary Nigerian pop stars, and Joeboy in particular is a must-see. Born Joseph Akinwale Akinfenwa-Donus, the 24-year-old singer attracted international attention in 2019 for his summery single “Baby,” a love song with a loping chord progression and an overarching yet understated chipperness that’s ready to burst at the seams. When Joeboy maneuvers between heartfelt singing and rapping, “Baby” explodes with so much color that it channels the exuberant delirium of a relationship’s honeymoon phase. On that song and others, Joeboy proves more adept than most pop stars of the moment at making infatuation palpable. “Show Me,” from his triumphant 2021 debut album, Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic (Banku Music / emPawa Africa), employs an incredible, barely perceptible transition in the moods of his synths. Though their tones initially feel mysterious, Joeboy’s heartfelt declarations as the song progresses propel them into a zone of complete confidence and unbridled euphoria—he won’t stop chasing after love. Somewhere contains Joeboy’s best material to date, and shows that he knows how to ride along to the beats that drive his songs.
On “Focus,” his rapping and the percussion engage in a subtle interplay: the soft musical accents and insistent rhythm feel lighter and more buoyant because of his elegant voice. “Runaway” cruises at a slower tempo but is just as resplendent because Joeboy’s singing intertwines with the track’s numerous shimmering guitar melodies. Most of his songs have an admirable brevity too; “Celebration” reflects quietly on life’s small joys in under three minutes, closing the album with charming gratitude. Since the album’s release last January, Joeboy has put out a handful of singles on his own and with other artists. The most commercially successful among them is “Sip (Alcohol),” a bleary song about escaping life’s miseries—it’s proof that he can provide a potent dose of any emotion he wants to conjure up and leave you feeling elated.
Joeboy, Fri 5/13, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, $29-$40, all ages
Early Warnings: See which artists are coming to Chicago with this essential music calendar of upcoming shows and concerts—inboxed every Tuesday.

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