In an attempt to resolve the matter once and for all, which will doubtless stoke further argument, here are the 7 songs which could prove that Wande Coal just may have the most amazing voice in Nigerian pop.
The agile rap-singing carries on through the verses and chorus, where he rattles off the refrain “la la la la la la la ladies” with impressive pitch control, up to the 2-minute mark when the singing is effectively over. At this point, a less confident or astute singer will ad lib over the chorus repeatedly till the song fade. Not Coal, who turns the last 40 seconds into its own chamber of melodies—a feat his one time mentor, Don Jazzy, no slouch himself when it comes to melodies, couldn’t have matched in his own version of the same song.
A lesser singer would let the brilliant production win ears, but using remarkable songwriting instincts and tonal agility, Coal straddles Don Jazzy’s beastly big body beat with practised ease, the best of a lot that includes “Baby Hello” and “Kpono.”
Sarz‘s beat is packed with wild electronic flourishes which many singer-songwriters would struggle to tame nearly as effectively as Coal has done using combative singing and varying florets of melodies. Sarz’s jittery beat, as if exhausted, disintegrates in the last quarter of the song. Rather than let the producer’s own showboating impress, the ever confident Coal smoothes over the disjoint with sustained notes in an impressive display only equalled by Wizkid‘s performance on “Samba (Beat of Life)” another stellar production by Sarz.
Damn near every bar starts or ends with a floral falsetto flourish right up to the last bridge, after which it blooms into a big bouquet of sweet notes that must require high motor control into order to alternate the tension of the vocal folds and nasal passages needed to produce it as effortlessly as Coal seems to have done—a feat he repeats on “Bananas”.
“My Woman, My Everything” with Patoranking
Patoranking‘s ragga-rap is muscular and would easily overshadow a less acrobatic singer than Coal whose own rap-singing, over the thumping beat, matches his cohorts in intensity and vibrance.
What better contrast to make, once again, than with Wizkid who, like Coal, embodies the best qualities in afropop; winning voice, astute songwriting and the catchiest melodies, though with a more consistent run of success. Both artists keep up the singing pace with Maleek Berry‘s heaving production but Coal does a better job of varying his singing with that finer timber natural to him, while Wizkid has textured his own singing with well placed ad libs.
“Curriculum Vitae” by Mo Hits All Stars
Curriculum Vitae is the group album by Mo Hits (led by Don Jazzy and D’banj) whose run from 2001 to 2006 ushered Nigerian pop into this new era of continent-wide dominance. While D’banj’s showmanship made for a magnetic presence, as did Jazzy’s production, the bulk of the singing duties fell to the then 24-year-old Coal who, song after song, brought a clarity of texture throughout the entire project, saving some from mediocrity and making others an enjoyable listening experience.
The big argument here goes thus: if Mo Hits (and Mavins, its later incarnation) is the most successful group in the new era of Nigerian pop (essentially, since Plantashun Boiz), and Coal is its most accomplished singer, wouldn’t this make his stature in Nigerian pop unrivaled?