After  Reekado Bank’s debut album, Spotlight, dropped from the stables of Mavin Records, it was only a matter of time before his label mate and fellow crooner Korede Bello got his moment in the sun. The wait is summarily over; the Godwin crooner, baby-faced, falsetto-singing Nigerian equivalent of Justin Bieber has put a good foot forward: he calls it ‘Belloved’.

Before any discerning reader starts to bother about the extra ‘L’ in Korede Bello’s spelling of Belloved, here is a belated caveat: a pun was intended. Poor pun notwithstanding, Korede Bello lives up to his former sobriquet of ‘African Prince’ on the album art which was themed after the classic Eddie Murphy movie, ‘Coming to America’. Interestingly, the Kenyan male group Sauti Sol also borrowed this theme for their ‘Live and Die in Africa’ album.

Korede Bello’s costume suits him and his good looks serve him very well. If there are any anxieties as to the trajectory of his fledgling career, it is concealed by his dead pan facial expression. His coiffed hair is reminiscent of another male vocalist once labeled a one-hit wonder until he clapped back with a tour-de-force album that left jaws hanging and knees begging for more. Like Kiss Daniel, Korede Bello put forward a solo album on which he is by himself on the eleven plus three bonus tracks.

With production credits by usual suspects Don Jazzy, Altims, Baby Fresh and a distinguished cameo by Cobhams (who has also just released his debut album), Korede Bello also has credits for playing live guitar on two songs.

The album begins on a metaphorical and prayerful note. Korede makes his name into a prayer on the Altims produced ‘Korede’ where he reminisces about ‘childhood memories in Festac’. Quite impressively, Korede’s biography instructs that he always took his music to heart, never letting the pursuit of education lure the microphone out of his hands.

On ‘Oh Baybe or Hermosa’, Korede is [sic] pon the track with a dancehall drawl that is easily a party starter with distant horns blaring behind the thumping percussion. ‘Repete’ shuffles in, assuredly christening the album a love affair. Promises of abundant love abounds; implicitly, Korede Bello is keen on tactile love and, as such, ‘Repete’ is a bedroom ballad.

Highlife tendencies and lofty imagery meld together in the Don Jazzy produced ‘Butterfly’. A masterful song with interesting guitar riffs and sonorous singing by Korede Bello, ‘Butterfly’ does not distract from the destination which is the bedroom. The serenade continues on ‘Let Him Go’ where Korede Bello drops a weighty punchline. Hear him: ‘If the man no dey drop bar, make you give am the spacebar—Shift!’

The bedroom plot is disrupted by ‘My People’ quite ill-placed between two love songs. Korede Bello mines the love of his fans in this hugely percussive song which quickens the tempo of the album.

‘If You Smile’ is a tender love song with guitar strings reminiscent of juju music. Here an extended metaphor of food is deployed to describe love. Cliché notwithstanding, this song rises to the occasion of an urbane love song that traps both foreign and local influences in equal measures.

On ‘Young Presido’, Korede Bello gives himself a new sobriquet and promises to rock someone’s body over a beat acutely reminiscent of Fela’s early Afrobeat groove. ‘Favourite Song’ is a mid-tempo departure from the highlife/afrobeats ethos of the album. Korede Bello tries for that Justin Bieber feel on this Cobhams-produced song even if he loses himself occasionally to sing in pidgin English. His ‘Good Time’ tides the album back to its former groove, without adding any new experiences to the same-styled Kiss Daniel song.

Korede Bello brings references from Montell Jordan’s This is how we do it and a hilarious fuji vocabulary for dance. The albums lulls to its final song. ‘Ese Baba’ predictably gives God glory and eases into the familiar territory of his previous hits chief of which is ‘Godwin’ his biggest song till date.

‘Belloved’ makes for a decent listen with subtle and not-so-subtle musical influences drawn from both foreign and local scenes. At the end of this ‘love’ themed album, there is a lingering feeling that the love affair has not been consummated. But what ‘Belloved’ lacks in machismo, it makes up for in an assuredness that boldly misspells beloved for the sake of double entendre.

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