To assert that singer/songwriter and producer Kuami Eugene has had a good year will be an understatement. The young artist has had an impressive year. For two years- 2018 included- Kuami Eugene has continued to find himself on the best artists list in Ghana.
His popularity has risen as his music career continue to soar beyond the borders of this country. His success, albeit new to him, is well deserved. It came at the back of hard work; a quality that has seen his glow- along with those of his label mates, KiDi and MzVee- shine with prominence beyond Ghana into Nigeria and other neighboring countries. If I dare say, Kuami Eugene is an “Artist of The Year” contender.
The musical journey of Eugene Kwame Marfo, did not happen overnight. Horning his musical skills at a young age at his church, where he learnt to play the guitar, drums and keyboard, his fortunes changed after signing to Lynx Entertainment. This was after a splendid showing on the fifth edition of “MTN Hitzmaker”, where he finished second runner up. Richie Mensah, label head of Lynx Entertainment and also, a music producer on the show signed him afterwards.
Ask me to point to someone who wanted to be an artist so bad and I would point to Kuami Eugene. Before settling into highlife/ afropop, he had dabbled in gospel and rap. His talents as a singer, music producer and songwriter have been the rock on which he has built his ‘church’.
The release of his debut, “Rockstar” was, therefore, highly anticipated, partly because of the success of his earlier singles since 2017. Every single he released was a certified hit. His performances as a featured act, where he usually added gloss to the songs, was a nod to his incredible talent. Kuami Eugene’s success was not only bound to the charts. His numbers on YouTube is completely insane.
These stellar performances and statistics notwithstanding, his debut, ”Rockstar” is not a standout album. Kuami Eugene chose caution over audacity. He played the middle line rather than pushing his talents beyond his comfort zone. And this is clearly on display across the 13 songs on the album. The album was also crafted to cater to the interests of his fans. (This is completely understandable if you consider the maxim you don’t need to change a winning formula).
Songs like the piano led, gospel toned ‘Heaven’, “No Time” and “Borkor” are crafted to appeal to the older folks and people in need of inspiration to forge ahead in life. The rest are afropop tunes with love as its building block. “Aku Shika” is a fast paced azonto tune purposely made for parties. “Borkor” with its palmwine highlife groove preaches against rushing in life.
Kuami Eugene played smart with “Rockstar”. He released all the big singles on the album at the beginning of 2018; an anathema to how song roll-outs are mostly conducted. Songs like “Angela” (released in 2017),”Confusion”, “Wish Me Well”, and “Walaahi” (released a month ago) became chart topping singles and helped sustain his name and visibility. The excitement- and the controversy that “Wish Me Well” courted turned out good for Kuami Eugene. He got Nigerian rapper, Ice Prince, whose song was interpolated or sampled, to add a verse on the remix.
Despite the inclusion of some of his ”old” hits, the 21 year old award winning singer, scored low on his songwriting. He chose a very formulaic template: fill the album with songs heavy on melody rather than fantastic writings: the lyrics were as generic as it could get.
One would have thought that, Kuami Eugene and his A&R at Lynx Entertainment would have filled the album with new singles rather than flood it with old songs- including the one-year- three-months old “Angela” which was his breakout song. I wonder why “Meji Meji”, his single with Africa’s biggest pop star, Davido was left out of the album.
“Rockstar”is an album designed purposely to put all the singles by Kuami Eugene into one folder rather than leave them scattered. His approach is similar to what the late Ebony (RIP) did for her ”Bonyfied” album. The new songs -“Borkor”, “No More”, “Aku Shika”, and “Forget”-are average songs compared to his older singles.
To label oneself a “Rockstar” include the ability to put together an album that is rich, intriguing, exciting and satisfying. That is, an album that would elicit the desired conversation years after its release and not one that’s easily forgettable. The rockstar tag goes beyond performance – be it live or on wax as well. It encompasses all these qualities.
My thought after listening to the album was this: Kuami Eugene is, perhaps, great at creating singles but not a full body of work. And for someone whose moniker is “Rockstar”, he must put in extra efforts towards improving his craft if he wants to live by that accolade . I hope he exhibits that on his future projects.