Do great Nigerian hit songs ever die?

What happens to our music long after it stops being played on mainstream radio?

Daddy Showkey with Femi Kuti performing at Felabration 2016.

“Oya suddenly, step in the club they’re loving me…”

I was driving through Lagos on a chill Friday evening with a friend who was in charge of the music. His aux chord dangled as it played music from his phone. D’banj’s ‘Suddenly’ blared from the speakers. And as we croaked through the verses and chorus, something hit me.

This is an ‘old’ song, released in 2008 at the peak of D’banj. It was one of the singles that made “The Entertainer” album one of the best in Nigeria. But playing today, it still seemed fresh as new, and we sang with emotion and happiness in that car.

D’banj (D’banj/Instagram)

You could argue that D’banj’s “The Entertainer” is a classic, and classics never die. But when simplified and analysed, it is still a hit song, which rocked the clubs and moved on while newer records had their moment in time. But why is it still here. Generally, it is believed that old songs have no value, and they die the moment they move out of prime time radio. But that isn’t the case. Something happens to records after they leave mainstream radio. Something that no one can decipher.

We seek to explore that. What are the stages of a hit song?

Creation: Hit songs don’t fall from heaven. They are created by recording artists and producers who come together to combine vocal and technical elements to give birth to a hit. After creation, the song is passed through the sound engineers for mixing and mastering, and then passed around to friends, family and industry practitioners for a hit. The first day I heard Davido’s ‘Fall’ after it was sent via email, after two listens, I sent back the response: “Issa hit song.”

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Release: The song is released through various channels, online, radio, and a video is shot and passed through the popular TV circuits across Nigeria, Africa, and in some cases beyond. The internet brings in the on-demand entertainment fans, radio gives it a boost, and TV promotes by cementing an image in the eyes of the fans. Everything works in tandem to introduce and convince people to commit to the record.


Reception: If the promotion eventually catches on, the DJs jump on it, the people download, stream and own copies of it. It goes viral, spreading across the world with the speed of lightening. Earlier this year, it happened for Runtown’s ‘Mad over you’. It has also happened for Davido’s ‘If’. No one can challenge or stop its spread. Remember, “Issa hit song.”

Lifespan: When a song stays hot for three months, it begins to decline due to the emergence of new records. People still own the song, but everyone is coming down from their high. The intoxication is wearing off. Other songs are fighting for prime positions. People don’t stop loving the record, but the universal Law of Marginal Utility has set in. People get tired of things. They need a break.
This is when the remixes begin to show up. The artists will seek to extend its life by making versions of it. Remixes, refixes, redux versions, all begin to show up. Sometimes these remixes are strategic to bring it into different markets. The artists collaborate with other artists from various markets to attempt to start the record over there. That way, the song is snuck into new territories, and if it catches on, that market goes through the process. ‘Despacito’ is a big song in English-speaking countries because of Justin Bieber’s work on the remix. But the original had been out since January 2017.

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When its run is done, the song slowly transforms into vintage material. It is archived and saved for special occasions and throwbacks. Depending on how strong its emotional pool is, it is called upon occasionally for some nostalgic turn up. This is the stage that D’banj’s ‘Suddenly’ is. Right there in that car, driving with the windows down, we enjoyed the record because it still has an emotional pull on all of us.

Re-invention: If the song still possesses elements that could be reworked and turned into a new song, it would. Blacky’s old school classic, ‘Rosie’ recently had its chorus stripped and remodelled by Timaya into his new single ‘Dance’.
Moral of the story is, no song ever dies. It moves from one stage into another, taking different forms. Although this might not happen for every hit song, but most of your popular hits go through this lifespan. No song dies completely. It takes on many forms and lives on in our hearts

Content from Pulse.Ng


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