I have to admit, I’m quite the Burna Boy fan. Whenever the African Giant is about to release an album, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve itching to unwrap this year’s goodies. I love his rhythm, his simplicity, his swagger.
Despite the disappointment of his Grammy award-winning album “Twice As Tall” (was I the only one who didn’t enjoy it?), this year was no different — I was highly expectant.
As I pressed play on “Love, Damini” literally a few minutes after it appeared on my Spotify, I listened gleefully as the legendary South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s smooth vocals set things off as poetically as only they can.
Then that incomparable baritone of Burna’s floated in as he regaled us with a tale of the challenges he’s been experiencing over the past year. Despite his immense success over this period, imposter syndrome seems to be giving Burna sleepless nights. It’s not the jubilant opening I’d imagined, but it’s a sweet start that offers a rare glimpse into this African giant’s state of mind.
Stream/Download Love, Damini Here: https://burnaboy.lnk.to/LoveDaminiiTunes
Right on queue, “Science” shakes us out of all the thoughtfulness and into the groovy rhythms Burna is famous for. It calls to mind the sultry “Anybody” from his magnum opus album, “African Giant”. This sets off an irresistible six song run that includes “Cloak & Dagger”, which finds J Hus in top form), “Kilometre”, album standout “Jagele”, “Whiskey” and “Last Last”.
It’s this point where Burna switches things up a bit. Throughout the rest of the album, which comprises 19 songs in total, he slows the tempo down significantly and plays second fiddle to his all-star cast of guests.
Burna has always been able to draw some of music’s biggest names as features on his music. This album is no different as he calls on the likes of Khalid, J Balvin, Ed Sheeran, Blxst and Kehlani. On For My Hand, which appears to be the new focus track, Burna and Ed Sheeran take turns whispering sweet nothings to a lover. It’s a relatively safe love song that doesn’t necessarily jump out at you.
“Last Last” is going viral across the globe. Every week, some new viral content explodes on social media and celebrities from all around the world either reshare the song or are snapped vibing to it. Just last week, Cardi B was recorded in the club singing the raging anthem word for word with her husband Offset, who’s also shared it on his IG Stories recently, vibing next to her.
With “Last Last’s” incredible success, when Burna released “Love, Damini” two weeks ago, the expectation was that there be more high-octane, triumphant anthems like this. But there aren’t. Instead, Burna is as introspective and reflective as ever.
On his album notes on Apple Music, Burna explained, “After turning 30, birthdays seem to make you reflect on your life choices, or a lack thereof – your goals, dreams, hopes, achievements and fears. Even though it put me in a vulnerable place, it also challenged me to do and feel more.”
Clearly, Burna has been doing a lot of thinking. It offers a different glance into him as a person, but at times it makes for a boring listen. This week, “Love, Damini” fell just short at becoming the first album by an African artist to debut at number one in the United Kingdom as it landed at number two. It’s an appropriate placing because the album generally feels just short of true greatness.