It’s a week since Tiwa Savage released her third studio album Celia, and the first project since her post-Marvin departure in 2019. Celia puts Tiwa in a new political world, one that honours its predecessors – Red (2016), Once Upon A Time (2013) – and its pool of bubblegum tracks but pushes for a closer examination of womanhood. She did say that the album was inspired and named after Celia Savage, her strong, supportive mother who’s given a cameo in a promo clip alongside Kelly Rowland and Genevieve Nnaji saying ‘I am Celia.’
In an increasingly feminist climate, Tiwa’s politics has come under scrutiny. In 2017 interview, after her Sugarcane EP was released, she told Beat FM radio presenter Toolz that men and women aren’t equal. And on Twitter you would find her espousing the idea that women are their own worst enemies, in the context of not receiving support from women towards her music.
Celia isn’t driven by a cut throat political mandate – Tiwa isn’t standing on a police car sinking in vast waters, a la Beyonce’s Formation to protest racialized police brutality, or sampling the voice of feminists as a footnote to inducing some kind of great awakening. The politics in the album stay in the paradigms of Tiwa’s experiences, layered over Afrobeats and R&B welded together. A little impossible to do, but we rank the songs on the album and if you disagree, you can take it up with the manager.
With piano accompaniment, Tiwa confronts her rocky separation from her ex-husband Tee Billz in 2018, with the lyrics conveying no hard feelings. There are lovely vocal runs, but what’s also remarkable is Tiwa showing her vulnerability.
12. Celia’s Song
Celia’s Song is the capstone of the 13-track album, and it’s easily about Tiwa’s mother supporting her through her music and with prayers. It’s deeply sentimental, even though unsophisticated.
Lightheartedly, Tiwa addresses the slut-shaming that comes when young women are in the company of rich men or politician. She doesn’t like the double standard. The sex work politics isn’t too defined in Koroba, but we will take it.
Like an equivalent of Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money, Tiwa isn’t joking around with her cash and who else to collaborate with than Naira Marley? It’s almost poetic.
9. Save My Life
Nothing on Celia sounds as euphoric as Save My Life, light and feathery.
8. Pakalamisi feat. Hamzaa
Pakalamisi sounds like a regular Afrobeats cut on commercial radio, filled out with Hamzaa’s crispy vocals. Rock it.
7. Park Well feat. Davido
A feel-good love song that doesn’t drown in mushy lyrics, Park Well accommodates Davido’s outsize vitality and self-possession. Tiwa, as usual, is in her R&B wheelhouse.
After Tiwa performed Attention at NPR’s Tiny Desk concert recently, the song seemed to developed a certain kind of appeal. Tiwa knows her worth, in the context of relationships, and she wants every woman to know it too.
5. Dangerous Love
With the trappings of Afrobeat but still retaining some R&B flavour, Dangerous Love speaks about the kind of love with toxic undercurrents. It cuts into the female experience by way of something women can relate with.
Glory is a testament that Tiwa soars when she does undiluted pop. This trance/EDM pop song is further uplifted by its immaculate songwriting, loaded with a deep message about Tiwa reaping the fruits of her efforts.
3. Temptation feat. Sam Smith
Temptation is written by Fireboy DML and scores a grand collaboration with British pop star Sam Smith. The competence of the song only comes after multiple listens, Tiwa and Sam singing about being unable to resist their love interest over several streaks of saxophone sounds. It’s luminous.
2. Bombay feat Stefflon Don & Ailes
Featuring Stefflon Don and Dice Ailes, who doesn’t love a good body anthem? Calibrated to a dancehall beat, Bombay has a bubbly, feminine confidence that makes for makes for a good dance record.
1. FWMM (Fuck With My Mind)
”Don’t try me, I’m a bad bitch,” Tiwa sings audaciously. That’s it.