Widely heralded as the great LYNX album following lukewarm critical appraisal of Kuami Eugene’s Rockstar, Sugar, KiDi’s debut does impress for sure, but only just.
Resident lover boy or not, hearing KiDi gloat over being superior sweetener to the blouse-wearing sex (as evidenced by his fixation with the titular presence of the sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates), or profess affection for 372 inamoratas across the nearly forty minutes the record runs—often falling on a tired melodic sameness—is bound to turn vapid at some point.
Even if it is a label trademark, the technique of recycling bits of old staples, and then serving them as modern classics has been over-flogged. And so, unsurprisingly, ingenuity has diminished into staleness— an uninspiring, unfortunate colourlessness by a talent of whom we were promised so much.
And that’s the thing: smattered evenly over years, the directory of singles that have arrived from KiDi will excite commercially, even if they come largely bereft of original lyrics and ingenious chord structure. And so, over the period that he has come into top-tier ilk, the singer has galvanised widespread devotion across the breadth of the sub-region and beyond, while accomplishing enough advertisement for the album (published with a star-studded REX-directed rom-com attendant bearing the same name). Collected into a single project, however, it’s not quite the same thing.
But KiDi (like label-mate Kuami Eugene) is likely get away with flattering the nation via smashing singles only to deceive on the album. Here’s why:
The sparkling polish of his voice has conveyed sentiments which are both convincing and contagious, albeit mostly within the bracket of amour. Today, across Ghanaian pop, only one or two colleagues can manage the auditory majesty that KiDi boasts of. It is why expectations are different—higher—for Sugar. Were this a submission by any other act, it would be considered a class piece—but not work by KiDi, among a handful of new-age highlife practitioners we have anointed as authors of love classics. His voice, his biggest blessing, is also turning out to be the curse—even more than his celebrity.
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Bounteous mundanity notwithstanding, the thirteen-track set does retain soupçons of brilliance, particularly when he sidesteps the box, production-wise. There’s hardly anything a great voice and highlife strings can’t redeem. Take “Gyal Dem Sugar,” for instance—sailing on a delightfully liquid beat whipped up by, well, Liquidbeatz (whom you might recall for ground-breaking melody he’s curated for Kelvyn Boy lately). Consider the Mr Eazi-assisted “Sugar Daddy” also. That record enlivens because it takes a different sonic route. It crawls up the edges of your heart with a stealth technique that culminates into a ludic warmth we have come to know about love. When he explores his foundational R&B (see “For Better, For Worse,” and a brief, stripped-down version of his early hit, “Say You Love Me,” guesting Cina Soul, or tests an older, wistful iteration of highlife on “Letter to Afia,” too, it comes out well—even if the penmanship pales at aspects, such as his decision to precede “m’edi nkwasiasem” with “mpanyinfuo sii.” If you’re about to repeat something the Ghanaian elders have said, surely, it must be a deeper axiom than “I have been foolish.” Take that out, and it is a notable nod to sounds that have come before his generation. Another instance of worthy homage is “Zee,” via which KiDi signs off on the album. Here, as he does at multiple stages of the album, such as his option for “Pour Some Sugar” as the title for his opening song, KiDi invokes highlife maestro, Kojo Antwi, his technical model, subtly asserting himself as a musician belonging to Antwi’s ranks in the long run. He’s got a long way to go, but we’ll take it.
Get Sugar here