It’s hard to miss the name of Stanley Omah, otherwise known as Omah Lay, when discussing Nigeria’s expansive music scene. First testing the waters in a rap group, the following years have seen the 25-year old transcend his role as a producer and singer-songwriter, now placing his definitive step into the spotlight as a vocalist. And it’s worked. Even by pop stratosphere standards, the multi-disciplinary has become the centre of attention for the likes of Justin Bieber, who now share numerous collaborations and stages together.
Debut album ‘Boy Alone’ is a poignant 14 journey into afrobeats, all the meanwhile proposing Lay’s voice as an unshakingly honest one, finding solace through words that steer away from fantasy exteriors. The early moments of ‘i’ set off to finesse the tracklist’s contrast between blissful production and lyrics that reach into the deeply personal. Charming with its airy synths and hypnotic drum patterns, Omah accepts his growth as he voices “I cannot be nobody for life” across the hook. It is this same contrast that makes for some of the more challenging and, consequently, highlights of the album that materialise across ‘i’m a mess.’ Facing his own struggles with depression, the star’s vocal performance feels strongest when offering his own experience to his fans who may be going through the same, sharing the ceremonial ‘temptations’ that invites a multitude of voices and smokey percussion to elevate the sing-along chorus. At times, Lay alone can feel slightly distant to the listener and it’s the unifying backing vocals of ‘soso’ that push for a rich, all-encompassing sound.
Nevertheless, with the more introspective moments also come the celebratory highs of ‘woman’ that feel like a go-to selection for the clubs. The last leg of the project makes way for heavy pulsers, turning up the heat on ‘attention’ that unites the forces of Bieber and Lay whose soft textures seamlessly weave between one another across ear-worm hooks. Yet, it is ‘how to luv’ that taps into a more versatile sound, nestling an Amapiano bassline in Lay’s signature breezy slow-burners. In it’s production, its these subtle diversions that crave more bold experimentation, at times running the risk of playing things too safe.
‘Boy Alone’ proves that truthful songwriting can too urge its listener to get up and dance, cracking a smile through the struggles of the day-to-day. Waving the flag for Nigeria, Omah Lay is pushing for a sound that transcends the global reach of afrobeats, reaching into a profound core that anticipates growth and risk-taking on the road ahead.
Words: Ana Lamond