HomeEntertainmentA Pulse review of Rema's album 'HEIS'

    A Pulse review of Rema's album 'HEIS'

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    In the last 5 years, there’s hardly an artist that has impacted Nigerian musicians like Rema whose bold fusion has elevated him to pacesetter status.

    With his global hit ‘Calm Down’ getting Afrobeats its first 1 billion Spotify streams, Rema was invariably elevated to superstar status where he could afford to demand that he be placed next to the Nigerian big 3 of Burna Boy, Davido, and Wizkid.

    It’s this chest-thumping desire for a status upgrade that informs his 2023 EP ‘Ravage’ where he called himself the “HIM” in an album that showed glimpses of an artistic evolution marked by up-tempo hyper-pop style and complimented by visuals that are reminiscent of drug-fuelled psychedelic Rockstars.

    Rema’s evolution entered a new gear in 2024 where he seemed bent on showing that he had evolved from the smooth-faced Teddy Bear wielding teenage star to a 24-year-old young man with the world at his feet.

    From eagerly displaying his new cigarette-smoking hobby to teasing uptempo music marked by dark visuals and the consistent chest-thumping of an artist who feels he has something to prove.

    The new stage of Rema’s artistry manifests on his sophomore album ‘HEIS’ (meaning the numeral one in Greek) which he confidently released after 3 weeks of teasing new music and releasing the tracks ‘Benin Boys’ featuring Shallipopi and ‘Hehehe’.

    While Rema’s new album marks another phase of his artistic evolution, it carries a striking display of art driven by a needlessly overwhelming pressure to prove something whether it be his status as a visionary and the desire to be recognised for it, and to be included in the ranks of the Nigerian music Big 3.

    The tame lead single ‘Benin Boys’ which was too small to soundtrack the moment it was meant for and ‘Hehehe’ which seemed like a one-take freestyle that should be nothing more than an interlude gave assumptions of a carefree, hurried, and overconfident approach to the album.

    Rema had crafted a villain persona marked by Rockstar aesthetics and he borrowed from psychedelic rock and hyper-pop to make music to match. While this bold fusion holds up his status as a daring creator and visionary, Rema appears to lack the temperament and patience to robustly execute this vision into an achieved sound.

    For a popstar whose confidence while innate was fanned by the record-making success of ‘Calm Down’, Rema’s sophomore album was supposed to reinforce his argument for inclusion in the Big 3, but instead, he makes a monotonous album where he engages in aggressive chest-thumping with music that potentially cut off a bulk of the average listeners base.

    For the most part, the album feels like an outburst over a perceived lack of acknowledgment, as what should have been a display of elevated artistry, quickly turned into a petulant demand for recognition through an obviously one-take project he hopes signals his superlative talent.

    The 11-track album opens on a good note with the breathless ‘March Am’ whose repetitive chorus sticks alongside P Priime‘s stellar use of drums. After the first track, it is essentially about enduring the heavy rock music type drums and Rema’s tedious breathless chest-thumping before some reprieve is offered on the closer ‘Now I Know’ where he celebrates kinship and shows heart through infectious melodies.

    When Rema laughs at his detractors on ‘Hehehe’, it’s with arrogance and condescension that crept into the creation process to make for a song that feels incomplete both in length and approach.

    The Bongo Flava type production on ‘Azaman’ wasn’t harmonized with strings and keys as Rema engaged in showmanship while name-dropping men of status in quintessential Nigerian big man-hailing fashion. The DJ YK-type production on ‘Ozeba’ while packing street dominating potential suffers from Rema’s tedious monotonous delivery that doesn’t attempt to take the listener along.

    His repetitive chest thumping through a trance-like, one-take, fast-paced delivery made for a tedious listening experience, especially towards the end of the album on ‘Egungun’ and ‘Villian’.

    The collaborations also fail to offer any reprieve as Rema essentially does the same thing on ‘Benin Boy’s’ next to a Shallipopi who offered the ordinary while his chest-thumping next to a spent ODUMODUBLVCK is completely forgettable.

    There are however moments to hold on to in between with ‘YAYO’ which offers some delight through a familiar use of Log drum and delivery popularised by the era-defining duo of Asake & Magicsticks. Similarly, Rema manages to tone down his implosive delivery on ‘HEIS’ whose sampling and percussions add some variety to the album. The fact that both ‘YAYO’ and ‘HEIS’ won’t be anything more than fillers in a decent album shows the level to which this album descended.

    When placed next to the psychedelic Rock and hyper-pop music it seems to borrow from, it lacks the angst, soul, and artistic depth that makes such music more than just heavy drumming and breathless delivery. Even when placed next to his effort on his 2023 EP ‘RAVAGE,’ the bulk of the music lacks the heart, depth, and authoritativeness of ‘DND’ and ‘Smooth Criminal’ while also failing to hold similar balance which he curiously found space for over a 5-track EP but not on an 11-track album.

    It’s important to state that Rema’s ‘HEIS’ is one of the boldest Nigerian albums in the last 10 years. This album is reflective of Rema’s confidence and status as a visionary even as he risked commercial success to make a body of work that steps away from the mainstream and is capable of becoming a notable reference to his future sound and the coming generation.

    However, Rema displays a lack of patience and temperament to properly execute his vision as the album seems like one delivered in one take and completely fashioned after a reference song.

    Having a vision is one thing, effectively executing it is a whole different story.

    On ‘HEIS’, Rema failed to effectively executive his vision and this is not for a lack of ability. It appears, to this writer, to be more of an issue of effort and patience. Every mark he gets for this album, he gets for the boldness it conveys and not for the effort put into it.

    A visionary must be willing to clock in the work to make a project that does justice to his super talent and daring creativity.

    Rema is a visionary, and he needs to rise to the responsibility that comes with it.

    0-1.9: Flop

    • 2.0-3.9: Near fail

    • 4.0-5.9: Average

    • 6.0-7.9: Victory

    • 8.0-10: Champion

    Pulse Rating: /10

    Album Sequencing: 1.4/2

    Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.2/2

    Production: 1.4/2

    Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1/2

    Execution: 1/2

    TOTAL – 6

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