Album Review: Iyeoka-SAY YES
How can you not “say yes” to an artist that combines their vocal talent, their passion for words, and their theater background to captivate audiences with pieces that broach love, women, culture, struggle and relationships, among other things? Iyeoka does all of this, with such passion and poise that it makes you long for the days of Nina Simone. Embraced as a top artist on the National Poetry Slam circuit, Iyeoka began to cultivate a very loyal fan base with the successful releases of her 2000 compilation Some Nights and her 2004 debut, full-length album, Black and Blues. Now the Boston-based Nigerian poet/singer is back with her follow-up SAY YES, making it hard not to.
Iyeoka delivers a powerful, revelatory yet compact experience in just 43 minutes. The album’s debut single, “The Yellow Brick Road Song” is an inspirational tune about following ones dreams, with the proverbial Wizard Of Oz reference. The track, featured in an episode of the hit HBO series, “How To Make It In America,” garnered positive reviews for both its lyrical content and musical composition. For those expecting a solemn, politically forced album, this introduction is a welcome surprise, and it sets the tone for the remainder of the album.
Two songs in, the album switches gears, and we find Iyeoka recovering from the pain and confusion of unrequited love on the title track. “Say Yes” is not the typical backhanded love song, laden with self-pity. Instead we hear a woman, empowered, realizing that while love is a priority, her first priority is to herself.
“Breakdown Mode” and “Millionaire” are both electro-funk tracks with humming synth strings and a funky bass line, reminiscent of what Janelle Monae tries to emulate at her very best. They are easily the most radio-friendly songs on the album, and a pleasant contrast to the lyrically heavy “This Time around,” which addresses the process of knowing one’s path and walking it, despite adversity.
Iyeoka switches gears and returns to her Nigerian roots with “Testify,” which builds upon Nigeria’s rich musical culture with unique polyrhythm inside a folk-like composition; a very welcome addition to the album, along with the monologue “I Travel Home,” which provides a vivid glimpse into Iyeoka’s evolution from a child in Nigeria to a woman in Boston. Iyeoka remains cognizant of where she’s come from and the things we often take for granted.
Both the composition, and lyrical, vocal vulnerability of “Happily Ever after” and “I’m Descending” are soft and beautiful, to say the least. Again we find Iyeoka in the midst of adversity, always remaining conscious of her greater self; a recurrent theme in Say Yes and a laudable deviation from the degradation of women heard almost daily in today’s music.
The final performance of the album is “My Anthem” (literally and figuratively). “This is my destiny of moments. This is the song speaking from my heart; so fearful of wasting days,” she proclaims in her sultry tenor, imploring her audience to use each day wisely
Iyeoka’s SAY YES is a holistic experience which feels like you are receiving an invitation into the beautiful mind and soul of the ever-evolving creative mastermind. It would be wise of any true music lover to have such a timeless collection of art in their musical repertoire.
out of 5
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