A Better Time
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Davido was poised to expand his quest for international pop domination. However, in March 2020, the Nigerian star’s blowout North American tour was cancelled with everything else, leading him back to the studio to record a follow-up to his 2019 international smash and billion-streaming second album, A Good Time. Recorded entirely in Atlanta, that genre-fluid, guest-filled LP had put Davido on the map commercially in the U.S., with “Fall” setting records for a Nigerian pop single on the Billboard charts. Arriving less than a year after its predecessor, 2020’s A Better Time was recorded back in Lagos and largely adopted an attitude of sunny escapism toward the dire circumstances in the world. Grounded more firmly in his country’s musical traditions than A Good Time, ABT felt both like Davido reinhabiting a comfort zone and relishing the possibilities of his broader platform, musically and lyrically. Despite its relatively featherweight musical affect, its lead single, “FEM”, became an activist anthem with the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, making Davido a poster child for the cause. Upbeat and sentimental tracks like hit single “Jowo” and “Heaven”, meanwhile, celebrate topics like fatherhood—the album’s cover features Davido and his son Ifeanyi—and loving partnership. The default mode is sleek production with definitive Nigerian DNA. There are exciting one-off hybrids, too, like closer “On My Way”—a collaboration with Kenyan group Sauti Sol that playfully meshes African and Western pop, interpolating Sade’s “The Sweetest Taboo”. Davido also peppered in the kind of cross-cultural meetings of the mind that helped make A Good Time a worldwide sensation. The singer often brings out less frequently displayed sides of his superstar collaborators’ musical personalities; the lush melodicism of Nicki Minaj’s verse on “Holy Ground” is particularly striking. The record’s tropical second single, “So Crazy”, finds then-up-and-coming Young Thug protégé Lil Baby in a lighthearted, game-spitting mode. Thugger himself shows up alongside Chris Brown on the understated Afropop jam “Shopping Spree”, smoothing over the more idiosyncratic aspects of his delivery to match the slick phrasing of his collaborators.