Davido to drop ‘A Good Time’, the excellent follow-up to his debut album, ‘Omo Baba Olowo: The Genesis’. In that long period, where his only multi-song release was the rather panned EP, ‘Son of Mercy’, Davido went from new star on the block to international superstar, using the far-reaching power of single releases to his advantage.
In the near-decade since he’s been prominent, there has never been a time when a Davido hit hasn’t been in circulation, a testament to his blinding prowess as a hitmaker and the sheer amount of star power he’s continued to amass ever since. Beyond their successes, though, revisiting his non-album singles consolidates the fact that Davido has been at the cutting edge of Nigerian mainstream music, making these songs touchstones of afropop rather than loose throwaways.
At the moment, Davido is working towards ‘A Better Time’, a new album which we’re expecting later on in the summer. While we anticipate a new Davido project—partly because it’s not an everyday occurrence—it feels like a great time to appreciate the music he made that didn’t make it unto any of his projects. To that end, we’ve put together a definitive ranking of the 10 best non-album singles from the afropop superstar. Feel free to drop a comment or @ us if you feel otherwise.
10. “Pere” (F/ Rae Sremmurd & Young Thug)
It’s only slightly surprising that, in a year where everything Davido put out was met with rave acclaim, a song produced by hit-making producer DJ Mustard was his least successful release. It was indicative of an audience who was becoming increasingly confident in its homegrown sounds and demanded allegiance from prime purveyors. While it was clearly the weakest of his singles in that year (which everyone acts like it never happened), “Pere” is a highlight in Davido’s catalogue of global collaborations, especially with how comfortable he sounds alongside some of the most talented artists of the time. Assisted by serviceable turns from Rae Sremmurd and Young Thug, “Pere” is an attempt at a purposeful collision, and even though it falls short of hitting the mark, it’s quite impressive to be one of Davido’s best non-album cuts.
If you think about it, from “Ekuro”down to “1 Milli”, Davido has always had songs that seemed tailor-made for nuptial occasions. “Dodo” lands squarely in that territory, and even though it’s very much a retread of “Aye”, it’s definitely far from being an unimaginative love song. At the time of its release, Davido wasn’t the love-stricken man the currently is, but he still had the words and enough charm to capture what it feels like to be in the honeymoon phase. Accompanied by groovy production with vivid Yoruba folk influences, Davido puts on his best rustic charm and spills out a handful of quips about undying affections in Yoruba, all of which he sells with his impassioned and playful melody runs.
8. “Fans Mi” (F/ Meek Mill)
Let’s be honest: “Fans Mi” is mainly a successor to Davido’s grass-to-grace single, the Naeto C-assisted “Back When”, albeit a more reckless and compelling song. Having established himself as one of the biggest superstars on the continent, “Fans Mi” was such an ebullient victory lap it was easy to overlook mentions of being him broke. Having already damned the underdog story, the song pretty much showed that Davido could push whatever narrative he wanted and get away with it, plus it came with a verse from Meek Mill which plays right into the rapper’s unapologetic flexing alley, and a Shizzi beat that still knocks.
7. “The Sound” (F/ Uhuru & DJ Buckz)
If you’re looking for a perfect encapsulation of Davido’s star power circa 2015, the music video for his instant banger, “The Sound”, might be the most potent example there is. At the time, glossiness was already etched into the DNA of popular Nigerian music videos, but Davido—with the help of director, Sesan—took things up a notch with a boisterous display of opulence, featuring exotic cars, jumping out of helicopters and the deserts of Dubai. All of that is fitting for a song which serves as a high watermark for Nigeria-SA collabs, which was a phenomenon on the rise at the time. Instead of finding foils for his energetic flair, as he did on “Tchelete”, Davido is joined by Uhuru and DJ Buckz, both of whom were on the same wavelength with him through their short but effective cameos.
6. “Wonder Woman”
Heart-warming is not the primary adjective that comes up when we talk about Davido, but it’s high time we start attaching it more to the singer. In his ongoing second act as a superstar, Davido’s run has been powered by affecting and appreciative love songs, none more so than “Wonder Woman”, a typical O.B.O flex that manages to extend into a celebration of women’s achievements. With his brags about his willingness to empty out his bank account, “Wonder Woman” contains Davido’s self-reverent trademarks, however, there’s a dotting energy in his fluid melodies and the lush, mid-tempo production that elevates it. Add the brilliant music video, with cameos from notable and enterprising women, and Davido’s genuineness makes up for any chinks in the armour of his execution.
5. “Tchelete (Good Life)” [Featuring Mafikizolo]
There’s a strong argument to be made about Mafikizolo’s mega hit, “Khona”, being the main catalyst behind the influence of South African house on contemporary Nigerian pop music. An indicator of that is “Tchelete (Good Life)”, Davido’s collaboration with the SA group that immediately shot up to smash success and is still a ringer at clubs and parties anywhere. With bombastic production from Shizzi and Oskido, “Tchelete” is a massive feat in complementary song making between artists with varying sensibilities. Davido’s combustible energy is balanced by Mafikizolo’s playful soul and all contributing parties find a middle ground which ensures the song slaps appropriately.
4. “Like Dat”
In a year where completely dominated afropop, the consensus around “Like Dat” is that it’s a criminally underappreciated song. It’s not a claim that’s entirely out of pocket, considering the controversy that followed when Teni publicly announced her songwriting involvements and the fact that “FIA” came out shortly after. Although it lacked the urgency that made its successor instantly popular, “Like Dat” is a potent snapshot of Davido’s ability to create—or in this case, co-create—a club-ready banger that bears his distinct charisma. In between the myriad of striking catchphrases, Shizzi’s preppy beat and DAPS’ phenomenal accompanying video, it’s Davido’s confident character that truly pushes the song into special territory and it’s telling that he’s still the only one who had the power to slightly dampen the song’s success.
“They say love is blind but I dey see am for your eyes” is as corny and sappy as romantic one-liners, which is basically on-brand in afropop, a genre largely driven by sentimental lines. On his huge hit song, “Aye”, Davido repeats that memorable line several times, perhaps as a way of emphasising how far removed the song is from the gloss and materialism that often powers his love songs. Although there are subtle (by O.B.O standards) allusions to his wealth, “Aye” is the closest Davido got to blue-eyed until “Assurance”. It is the type of song that has lyrics fitting for handwritten, teenage love letters—if they were still a thing—while T-Spize’s delectable folk production and the rustic music video helped sell Davido’s attempt at being relatable and universal. All of that culminates into making “Aye” the evergreen love song that it rightly and inarguably is.
“Skelewu” was so big, it had twomusic videos. After dropping a debut album that spawned multiple hit songs and following up with the similarly successful “Gobe”, Davido completed his ascension into the rarefied territory of artists who were too big to fail with “Skelewu”. If previous songs had already showed us his powers to finagle widely loved music, this song was a showcase of Davido’s ability to affect pop culture itself in a far-reaching way, the hallmark of a true superstar.
Packaged with a dance trend, “Skelewu” didn’t masquerade its intentions of dominating dancefloors, with the instructive lyrics, Davido’s unhinged playfulness and Shizzi’s percussion-packed beat binding together for a song that personified the unrestrained joy of the dance itself. Nobody in their right minds is doing the Skelewu dance at the clubs these days, but unlike many other trends, it’s fond enough to not be an embarrassing period. Davido has gone on to score bigger hit songs, but this song was the moment the wider audience became invested enough to clamour for a better music video; the moment he started becoming the afropop icon we all know and love.
Davido had to reply. Within weeks of two close friends passing, the singer found his name being dragged through the mud of speculation and slander, by a gossip-mongering press and a police force using his fame for publicity agenda. Every time he’s been provoked or seemingly backed into a corner, Davido has always come back swinging—“All of You”, “Bahd, Baddo, Baddest”—and on “FIA”, he brought out a flamethrower and incinerated all the chatter in one aggressive, instantly memorable and sublime fell swoop.
Initially starting off as a vindictive missive towards a past, exploitive lover, Davido flips the stakes for “FIA” to fit his agenda as an annoyed pop superstar. The Fresh VDM-produced song is a flawless pop record that had instant wide appeal, and Davido enhanced that thrill by finding the perfect pockets to take the needed swipes—“Caroline save you drama, I don’t need it for a soap opera/hola hola mr olopa, I’m not here to cause wahala”. “FIA” is a classic representation of Davido as a world beater, one who relishes challenges because they give him the opportunity to steamroll over them. For that, it’s not just Davido’s best non-album single, it’s a cornerstone of a mythical career he’s continued to assemble with every notable release.