Paris-born Nigerian musician Aṣa’s fifth album comprises a refreshing blend of pop, Afrobeats, neo-soul, and R&B. This colorful meeting of genres, styles, and generations pairs the singer-songwriter’s signature smoky vocals with breezy explorations of love. “V is about happiness, love, friendship, and lots of joy,” she tells Apple Music. “It’s fresh and modern, but it’s also something you’re familiar with. I’m simply expressing being with the flow of things.” That sense of flow is influenced by a feeling of freedom and her locale. “Writing these songs at home meant the soil, air, food, and sun all made contributions to the creation of this album,” she says. “The album was written entirely in front of water and that definitely contributed greatly to the songs because I was so calm. That solitude I love is something you’ll hear a lot on V.” While the global pandemic may be synonymous with isolation, Aṣa’s canceled tour resulted in serendipitous features with Afrobeats doyen Wizkid (“IDG”), alté maven Amaarae (“All I Ever Wanted”), and contemporary highlife outfit The Cavemen. (“Good Times”). “This album seemed to have a life of its own. A lot of the music was made out of the box, which I’m not used to doing,” she says. It was also helmed by 19-year-old producer P.Priime. “He has a wide range, and so his worlds and my worlds are coming together.” Here, Aṣa breaks down V, track by track. “Mayana” “‘Mayana’ is really inspired by the music. Priime and I were working that day, and when I heard the music he was playing, the first thing that came to mind was ‘Nothing but our love.’ It’s an imaginary story, but I know what it feels like when you’re on an island and just want to be with the person you love. It just transported me to a world where love is taboo. People would rather go somewhere where they can be alone without hearing whispers or people talking. So, it’s like, ‘Don’t worry about what people say…we will survive.’” “Ocean” “WurlD cowrote this song with me and he also did the background vocals. It’s very hard to write in a windowless room. I remember, on Lucid, I wrote ‘Torn’ in a room full of windows. I was actually just belting it out in front of a window, and when I went to the studio to re-record it, I couldn’t, because it wasn’t the same feeling. I wrote most of these songs at dawn: 4 am is a very important hour for me because I’m more active, creative, and have more energy. I may never sing ‘Ocean’ or any of these songs the same way ever again, because where I was sitting was very different and what I was feeling was very different.” “IDG” (feat. Wizkid) “This is a fun song, which is saying, ‘We are different. What I love, you may hate, but you should give everyone a chance.’ I wanna find my home and I don’t wanna go where there’s bad vibes. I use Caribe and Soweto to further explain that you don’t have to go too far. You don’t have to try too hard—just find where there’s love and stay. Wizkid was the perfect voice for this song because of his tone and [the fact that] he’s such a great melody-maker. We had struck a friendship when we met in Ghana. We had something organic, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I love that he brought something magical to the song.” “Nike” “A lot of these songs are based on writing alone at dawn. I wanted to express emotion. I wanted quiet. ‘Nike’ is that song wanting the listener to feel all of these emotions and, perhaps, physically touch the textures I’m trying to create. When you’ve been in a relationship and someone’s shown you the world, no one else is as good! But unfortunately, it didn’t work out and that’s what the song is about: ‘I’ve met you, you’re amazing, and this is what I want in this person. So, it’s gonna be hard to love someone else ’cause I’m always gonna be looking at that person through these rose-tinted glasses you created.’” “Show Me Off” “‘Show Me Off’ has a simple, easy, and relaxed highlife-y sound. Again, it’s about celebrating life and love. It’s a feel-good wedding song. You’re thinking about this person you love and even after you’ve just had a fight, it’s just, ‘Despite whatever, this is the person I’d rather spend the rest of my life with.’” “Morning Man” “V is hugely based on my environment. I wrote most of these songs outside and was around nature; water, trees, and animals is all I could hear. This song is very much influenced by the location and its sounds. I was literally looking at the sun in the morning while writing. ‘What does this sun do to me?’ So, I put a story to it. Love is usually what I write about. I love love and never tire of it. I’m wishful, loyal, and I’m a hopeless lover. I could never have written this story if I hadn’t experienced it.” “Good Times” [Aṣa & The Cavemen.] “There’s just something acoustic that somehow brings me to Southern Africa here. When I was writing this one, I was thinking about Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. There’s this video of them onstage in front of thousands of people—they had this sweet guitar riff starting the song, and this always takes me there. That’s what it’s like working with The Cavemen.; they look back to give us authentic highlife today. This was one of the easiest songs because it’s about remembering a good friend. With me and The Cavemen., it’s not just featuring each other: We come together, eat, and goof around. It’s something magical, and that was the experience writing ‘Good Times.’” “Believer” “I’m a perfectionist and it’s a little bit to a fault. With ‘Believer,’ I didn’t think too much; I was on automatic, just writing and singing—wanting to test how far Aṣa can go sonically. It’s 100 percent about a test of our love too. I played with the word ‘believer,’ and I think what I’m trying to say is, ‘I’ve been screaming without opening my mouth, but I’m faithful and I’m loyal.’ Yes, on ‘Nike’ I was hurt, but it wouldn’t stop me from loving again, and I’ll go with you for a long time.” “All I Ever Wanted” (feat. Amaarae) “I think with ‘All I Ever Wanted,’ I went into Amaarae’s world. I started this song with her in mind—writing the song for her. The song starts with my voice sounding very soft and wispy, and I was imitating her. ‘I wrote the song wanting to give it to her, so it’s definitely not my song. I’m not gonna sing this song and it’s definitely not gonna go on any Aṣa album’—that’s me overthinking! I told her about the song when we spoke for the first time, and she told me we should do it together. I really do like hearing someone’s voice other than mine on these records.” “Love Me or Give Me Red Wine” “This song takes me somewhere, perhaps to a past relationship. ‘Love me or just let me drink my wine.’ You’ll hear a few whimsical words, and that’s me drinking red wine with not a care in the world. The sound plays a huge role in the creation of the song; it just keeps going up, up, up, and all you can do is follow it and have fun. I was brought up in a patriarchal society, and I think right now it’s more about asserting yourself and not being the person [who’s] trained to walk behind. I’m not opposed to love and I’m not going to say no to it, ’cause it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world, but I’m not going to take the backseat. It’s about the power of feminine beauty…coming into oneself and saying, ‘I’m beautiful, independent, and love myself, so I don’t need anyone else’s validation.’”

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