“Fame puts you there where things are hollow,” David Bowie sang again in 1975, and loads of performers, earlier than and after, have found the identical factor. Their songs declare outsized ambitions and make untimely boasts as careers start. But then success, if it occurs, brings as many pressures and perks — and, generally, a brand new willingness to confront misgivings.
Burna Boy — the Nigerian songwriter Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu — has ascended steadily to worldwide stardom over a decade of recording. In April, as a part of his newest world tour, he turned the primary Nigerian act to headline the Madison Square Garden arena, that includes a cameo look — an elder-generation endorsement — from Senegal’s longtime musical ambassador, Youssou N’Dour.
Burna Boy’s sixth studio album, “Love, Damini,” is a trove of fabric: 19 full-fledged songs. He summoned a world roster of collaborators together with blockbuster hitmakers — J Balvin and Ed Sheeran — together with Khalid, Kehlani, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Jamaican singer Popcaan and the British rapper J Hus. And like Burna Boy’s earlier album, the Grammy-winning 2020 “Twice as Tall,” his new one each parades his accomplishments and admits to the doubts and regrets of an obsessive achiever.
Burna Boy calls his music Afrofusion. Its core is the elegantly minimal percussion — hand-played and digital — of Nigerian Afrobeats, which makes use of impacts and silences to suggest three-against-two syncopations. Abetted by a few of Africa’s most creative producers, Burna Boy connects Afrobeats to its worldwide kin: R&B, Jamaican dancehall, reggaeton, Congolese rumba, hip-hop and extra. His voice, a velvety baritone, has a suave composure that may trace at simple assurance or a melancholy reticence, and whereas his melodies don’t instantly appear sharp-edged, he locations every observe so as to add yet one more layer of polyrhythm.
The music attracts pleasure from each strategic element: from the weave of sampled and echoing backup vocals in “Different Size,” from the percussive syllables that break up the title and chorus of “Kilometre,” from reversed guitar tones and distant reggae horns in “Jagele,” from the saxophone curlicues that reply his voice in “Common Person.” The surfaces are shiny and reassuring; the inside workings are slyly playful. But Burna Boy broods greater than he celebrates.
In “Glory,” the album’s opening music, Burna Boy guarantees “This is my story”; it begins with the sober South African harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, earlier than piano chords chime in and Burna Boy sings that he’s been “having nightmares of the day I fall off.”
His friends typically be a part of him as fellow strivers. Khalid croons within the hymnlike “Wild Dreams,” as Burna Boy urges listeners to dream huge however ends with a warning: “Remember Martin Luther King had a dream, and then he got shot.” J Balvin trades verses with him in “Rollercoaster,” a bilingual Afrobeats-dembow mix, with Burna Boy expressing gratitude, renouncing “the fast life” to be “pure of heart,” and resigning himself to ups and downs. And with Ed Sheeran, he shares “For My Hand,” a wedding-song-worthy vow of mutual devotion by tough occasions, singing, “Whenever I’m broken, you make me feel whole.”
Work-life imbalance destroys a romance in “Last Last,” the album’s most agitated music; over nervously strummed minor chords and a vocal phrase sampled from Toni Braxton’s “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” Burna Boy sings, “I put my life into my job/And I know I’m in trouble.” In “It’s Plenty,” he notes, “Don’t wanna waste my days/I want to spend them on enjoyment,” however the manufacturing retains the bouncy monitor at a distance, and quickly Burna Boy is apologizing — “Don’t know how to show you my love” — and feeling numb and compulsive: “No matter what I do, it’s not enough.” In “How Bad Could It Be,” amid crystalline guitar choosing and ghostly girls’s voices, he’s extra convincing as he particulars melancholy, alienation and nervousness than he’s with the music’s halfhearted recommendation: “When you feel as sad as you can feel/Say, ‘How bad could it be?’”
He has different issues, just like the smog in his hometown, Port Harcourt. “Because of oil and gas, my city’s so dark/Pollution make the air turn black,” he sings in “Whiskey,” a midtempo monitor punctuated by vintage-sounding horn-section samples and furtive guitar runs. And even when he’s promising carnal delights — in “Dirty Secrets,” “Science” and “Toni-Ann Singh”— they’re blended with minor chords and ominous undercurrents.
On “Love, Damini,” Burna Boy may simply have congratulated himself and strutted by new conquests as an alternative of wanting inward. But even now, he’s not self-satisfied sufficient to celebration — not this time.