Behold, the great 2019 love album has come ashore, and, ‘as promised,’ it is singer King Promise, Ghanaian pop’s current vocal monarch, who has delivered it. The fifteen songs that comprise Gregory Bortey Newman’s maiden CD are ferried by tantalising experimentation, a stainless style, and ambient dazzle.
Simply put, it’s a product nestled in the vicinity of glorious perfection.
Kelvyn Boy has been distracted by the explosive mix of carnality and cannabis vapour, and KiDi appropriates excessively—but King Promise? King Promise aims for the heart, goes for gold.
If you have been watching closely, it should not come as a surprise, for even among his peers who seek to celebrate personal love, it is Promise they have invited for vocal assistance ( see Sarkodie’s “Can’t Let You Go,” and MEDiKAL’s “Ayekoo”).
Promise himself has yet to release a poor single—even when he sidesteps his forte subject of love. “Thank God,” which announced him three years ago, and the ubiquitous “CCTV” which reassures of the capacities of an omnipresent deity who knows neither sleep nor slumber, are the most emphatic examples of his adaptability.
Believe the hype: nobody rivals Promise vocally. Not KiDi. Not Kuami Eugene. Not Kelvin Boy, or any other act whose name begins with the letter “K”—not in this generation anyway. When he desires vocal emphasis from a “K”, he tracks down the most trusted supplier of the sensual sentiment and woman whisperer, maestro Kojo Antwi. “Bra,” the resulting song (obviously) does not underwhelm. It is the most important collaboration on the project, which also guests WizKid, the sublime Simi (who breathes new life into “Selfish” via her pure, soul–tickling delivery), Mugeez, rappers Sarkodie and Omar Sterling.
By itself, the instrument that is King Promise’s voice is finely soothing and sharp, piercing through even a stone-walled heart, provoking convincing feels. And when it interplays with guitar licks, violin, and tantalising horns and drum work, or flits seamlessly between English, Twi, and Ga, it becomes an uber–compelling Pop experience.
For most of As Promised (as the work is christened), Promise explores love with a gentle beauty, and the most smiting moments ensue when he’s lost in a longing; a wistful entrancing longing. When one is wholly enclosed in the emotional assurance of a lover, every passing minute is one of longing—even if they’re right there. There’s ample supply, but as is the case with all addiction, “excess” is not “enough.” Thus, like his stage name, one promise tailgates another in attempts to entrench the security of the shared verb, till night swallows one’s thoughts with dreamless sleep: “My baby, Fiona/ I no go play you like Maradona/ I go give you joy, make I hold yuh,” assures the singer on “Tokyo.” “I go fit be your commando,” he cries on another number. On “Happiness,” he goes one better “And girl, I promise on my life say I go make things right.”
Still, when the need arises, he’s capable too of signalling the exit, as he does on ” Obee Eshɛ,” which celebrates liberation from toxic union, or finding comfort in himself, sighing “I Tried.” He has time to dance (“F.O.O.D”), and finally, check the box of sexual consummation on the tipsy 90s–founded “Hangover.” “Yɛnda ama obi ada,” he sings in a quiet passionate ache, a classic highlife line that declares the banishment of all quiet within his immediate surroundings as a result of his nocturnal body simulations with his partner.
Lyrically, Promise is conversational, bare; disinterested in anything elaborate. No hidden messages or poetic anagrams requiring decryption. Somehow, though, the listener still encounters artful profundity.
As is the current practice of Ghanaian Pop, shadows of highlife linger on the project, but unlike the now overused stencil of tinkering old lines by the greats, in search of nostalgic appeal (save for “Letter” which reimagines Kojo Antwi’s “Dadie Anomaa” with tact and genius), As Promised honours the genre mainly in it’s instrumentation, manned chiefly by Killbeatz, who’s no stranger to the hit song, and is magician behind contemporary highlife staples mostly performed by R2Bees. And so, foundational strings sweep in and out of songs (often during the hook) like a cool breeze. Production-wise, there’s also the masterly experimentation with the gentle, soulish echoes that often characterise an iteration global dance music.
With five clear months to end the year, King Promise, without question, has whipped up not only the most impactful LP on love but perhaps the most outstanding debut 2019 will record.
As Promised is published under Legacy Life Entertainment. Get it here.