Omah Lay’s debut album is a pot full of gems. A gifted songwriter, as proven in his several chart topping singles, collaborations and pair of EPs released in 2020—Get Layd and What Have We Done— it remained to be seen if the Nigerian Afro-fusion artist could replicate this success across a full album. Boy Alone’s 14 tracks set any doubts aside. Each track combines biography with fantasy, earnest songwriting and mannered, though seductive singing, whether about heartbreaks or childhood ambitions, carnal pleasures or his bouts with depression.
“I had the worst days of my life recording this album,” Omah Lay tells Apple Music. “Trust me, I was blocked.” Rather than compartmentalise this turbulent period in favour of fantasy-filled songwriting, the man born Stanley Omah Didia conceded to the music-making acumen which has served him well in the past: mining the highs and lows of success and romantic adventures. “I can't sing what's not me,” he explains; “If I'm saying anything in a song, it's definitely true. The whole idea was to make sure that the album was really sounding the way I felt. I actually lived my reality on the album”. Below, Omah Lay talks us through Boy Alone, track by track.
“I would definitely rep where I'm from every day, man. I'm a full time Port Harcourt boy. With any chance that I get, I'll mention that. I'll tell the whole world, every day. I sent it out to a producer called Orlando. He remade everything and we redid the whole thing. It was just supposed to be an interlude with me just talking, as usual, saying the truth, man.”
“This song is about self motivation. In the song, I was referring to myself four or five years ago before I blew up. I used to always look at myself in the mirror and beat my chest and tell myself, 'You see me, staying in this studio every day and making beats for people and writing songs for people—I will not do this forever. I will grow up someday and I'll become big'. I travelled back to who I used to be and the things I used to say to myself, and I made the song. Even as a successful artist, people look me in the eye and I see doubts—but they are some of the biggest reasons why I wake up in the morning and I make music. And I want to prove to myself that I am the best, man. I just want to make sure that I clear everybody's doubts, and I also clear even the little one that's in my mind.”
“I'm from Port Harcourt and I'm a very bad boy, trust me. Whatever I'm telling you in my song is real, man. It's a fact. Girls like that vibe that when you tell them to go bend them. My girls like it like that though.”
“I wrote 'woman' and I just forgot about the song until someday, somebody in my team brought it out and played it for me and it sounded so fresh. When I sing, 'Anytime I knack, I knack without rubber band’, I’m not promoting condom-free sex. If you're married and you don't want to use a rubber band, you're good. But if you’re not, man, you’ve got to use a rubber band. For some of my special girls I don’t, and everybody must have that one special person that you can dive without.”
“i’m a mess”
“In the past one to two years, I don't know what happened to me, but I feel I just disconnected from myself for a minute. I think it was almost the peak of me not being in the best state of mind, mentally. Everybody's fucking with the things I'm doing, but my shit doesn't sound good to me. Drinking is boring. Smoking is boring. Women are boring. Everything in life was boring, man. I just couldn't find myself. And I think all of these things are just what makes me what I am. But somehow, I went outside the house and started just humming how I was feeling and for some reason, I started saying exactly what was happening with me. I started advising myself, and I added melody. I don't know how common depression is in the industry, but I think I've outgrown this phase of my life.”
“My team is the best for holding me down. 'temptation' is that song that I'm singing for my people, my real people. I was in the studio one day trying to finish up one of the songs when the producer [BGRZ] came through and played a bunch of beats. As soon as he played the one for 'temptation', my head just opened. Even though I was having the worst time, I have these people that keep me going. I just realised I really needed to talk to them. I needed to tell them what was happening with me, and I needed to appreciate them.”
“This song happened one night when we were just vibing. The producer Tempoe played the beats and I just started pouring out my heart. I was going through a heartbreak and the song is about people you could basically do anything for, but who turn around to betray you at the end. I was in a relationship at the time and my heart broke and things were not right. Things didn't go smoothly.”
“This is a song that I dedicate to everybody who means a lot to me, who I lost some way, somehow. It’s a song that I dedicated to my late dad. The bit of singing I do in my language Ikwere [from Rivers State, Nigeria] translates to, ‘Wherever you are on this earth, in this world/If you're hearing my voice, please dance for me.’ I'm actually more highlife than I am Afrobeats fusion. I grew up on artists like Celestine Ukwu, in whose band my grandfather was a percussionist. The highlife music my dad used to play for me is what makes my melodies. So it's only right that my tribute to him is more highlife influenced.”
“I'm an overthinker, and when I'm all alone, I'm clouded with a lot of stuff. The thing that really helps me escape is touring. Travelling, performing, and watching people dance and sing to my music and be happy is my safe haven. Honestly, as much as people think that I sing about love, women, sex and stuff, I'm not always like that. I'm a very reserved person and I like to protect my energy so much. You got to be worth it for me to actually be with you. I'm very introverted. It's why I feel like I don't have a lot of friends. I like my space; I like to keep my circle as small as possible.”
“attention” [Omah Lay & Justin Bieber]
“Somehow JB and I just have this connection. We talk often, share songs, music and everything via text. During the making of this song was the first time that I did FaceTime with him, and he loved the song and sent back his verse, and that was it. I had just come out of my shell when I wrote the song. I was in a resort in Nigeria for like three months and I didn't see anybody. I was just really losing my mind, and I wanted to make music about how I felt in those three months of being isolated. As soon as the producer, Harv, played the beat for me when I got to LA, it sounded so much like what I was feeling.”
“‘Soso’ could mean anything to you, but it's the name of a girl. It's a Port Harcourt name; a Kalabari girl's name. When I say, ‘Soso, take my pain away’, I want her to come and dance for me. Let her come and do whatever she can do for me, and take this pain away. She’s not my girl. She's my friend's little sister, but she grew up, boom, and she started doing stuff, man. She just grew up on Snapchat and Instagram and just started doing things. The melody on ‘Soso’ is spirit; it’s Highlife. When I listen to those old highlife singers, it feels like they get their melodies from the spirit themselves. And that's where I always want to tap from. I made sure that I connected with my ancestors.”
“how to luv”
“I'm an unlucky motherf***er. When it comes to love, it doesn't work for me. I'm in today, I'm out tomorrow. That's why I'm looking for someone who could show me how to love.
I don't know what to call the song either—is it an amapiano song, or house? But you can tell where my head was when you listen to it. Even though it is dance music, there's still complaints inside.”
“tell everybody” (feat. Tay Iwar)
“I think recording this song was the first time I met Tay Iwar. We just linked and our energy was massive. It was good energy. And when he said that, 'I used to dream about the stars, that's why my patience is so low,' that stuff got me. I took it on from there. We just vibed and everything came. I really was intentional about doing my first album by myself. But Tay, he's a genius; his music is so good.”
“'purple song' is for my fans, my girls, my family, my people, my day-one people that have been there with me. It's a toxic song and at the same time it is a love song. I'm talking to somebody who the internet has said a lot of ill things about me to. Somebody who loves me for real, but there's just so many people saying rubbish about me, talking down on my name. And it's beginning to register in their mind that, ‘Oh, maybe these people are telling the truth,’ but inside them, they love me for real. And they're just in between the line of leaving me and moving on or staying. You can also listen to it as a love song.”