Adekunle Gold’s ‘Tequila Ever After’ is a Summery Sonic Elixir Infusing West African Signatures with Global Pop Nuance
Evan Dale // Aug 8, 2023
Adekunle Gold never had to put any extra emphasis on the fact that his Highlife-twisting, Altè-nodding, Afro-Fusion was always designed - or at the very least was form fitting - to soundtrack the summertime. Positivity and warmth orbit the natural sound at the core of his signature blend of stylistic nuances, sourcing the Yoruba Highlife sounds of his early life, the Afrobeats renaissance, and a global collection of modern music from around the world. And yet, like a well named agave cocktail, he took that extra step to ensure that his ratios were just right. He did it for all of us - the loyal listeners absorbing his unendingly listenable jams - so that we knew what kind of elixir to pair with the album, precisely what to sonically expect, in exactly which frame of mind to listen, and during just the right season. Tequila Ever After tastes like an ice cream sundae during the heat of the warmer months, merging so many contemporary sonic grey areas, while drawing a line from West Africa to global pop, soul, hip-hop, and R&B.
The Nigerian songwriter, vocalist, and undeniable fashion icon has been steadily, prolifically padding his canon with positively-tuned cuts through the expanse of West Africa’s Cultural Renaissance since the release of his debut album, Gold, in 2016, where in orbit of Lagos and Accra in particular, music, film, fashion, and art rooted in Nigerian and Ghanaian swatches of cultural vivacity are influencing creativity on a global scale.
Adekunle is at the forefront of that movement. Take a random single like 2019’s Kelegbe Megbe, and it continues to hold as an anthemic explosion of golden light, and mellow mindset in sonic form, breathing more life into the renaissance of Nigerian culture, and being constantly fueled in subsequence by more art that it’s inspired. But also since 2019, have come countless singles and features, along with two projects: Afro Pop, Vol. 1 and Catch Me If You Can, that soundtrack not only our summers, but our international travels, our road trips, our flights, our backyard barbecues, our glasses of wine in the fire escape, our sunsets. Adekunle Gold’s is the kind of auditory aesthetic inexplicably tethered to the elements, to positive emotion, to friendship and love. It’s overwhelmingly applicable to those situations that feel particularly deserving of music; especially in need of a soundtrack. And yet it’s also the kind of music tuned perfectly for the moments when we need courage or strength. His vocals and his words, his profoundly traditional instrumentation bleeding into his brash experimentation with modern production and a mosaic of other musical influences, lend themselves to powerful emotion, and that inner soundtrack we all need from time to time. His music is cinematic, and Tequila Ever After is his masterpiece.
Chasing Peace of Mind is a fitting place for the new album to kick off. Adekunle Gold has long expended a lot of effort to give us all the music we need in the moments where effort isn’t a priority, and where instead focusing inward and remaining present is the ultimate focus. While he’s been touring the world, and putting together single after video after project, we’ve been kicking back and playing his music as the mellow anthems during our moments of R&R. So, it’s only necessary for a little reprieve for Adekunle Gold, and he intends to make Tequila Ever After an expression of that sentiment.
“I’m not the Adekunle Gold who released my first album in 2016. I have a lot more confidence now.”
And he should. One look through the list of collaborative names who sprinted towards Lagos to be a part of Tequila Ever After, and it’s clear to see where he stands amongst giants on a global pop scale. Alongside Khalid, an expectedly downtempo heartbreak ballad leaves Come Back To Me an R&B adjacent exploration of emotional longing and irreplicable vocalism. In the very next track, Pharrell leaves his stamp on a retrofuturistic beat for the aptly named, uptempo Falling Up, where also alongside Nile Rodgers, Adekunle Gold shows his range and his ability to pull an audience onto the dance floor, while still sticking to his roots. Rhythmic and anthemic, it’s a certain standout. And yet, the ultimate standouts from the project at large are the tracks in which fellow African artists allow Adekunle to explore his range at the widest of extents. With legendary Malian guitarist, Habib Koite and South African singer, Ami Kaku, Chasing Peace of Mind sets the easy-going tone of the album into motion. Next to fellow Nigerian AfroBeats star, Zinoleesky, leading single Party No Day Stop earns its place as Tequila Ever After’s quintessential Lagos club anthem. The vibe change towards Wrong Person, where overtop a dark keystroke beat by way of infamous producer and frequent collaborator, Kel P still riding a traditionally rhythmic drum pattern, first Adekunle Gold and then fellow Nigerian trailblazer, ODUMODUBLVCK leave their respective marks on a different side of the project. And with the high tones and higher emotion that Nigerian soulstress, Simi brings into the frame, Look What You Made Me Do becomes an emotive love story at the heart of the album’s near-hour in length.
Over and over again, Adekunle Gold’s featuring artists push him in a new creative direction. But throughout the 18-track marathon, Tequila Ever After never loses its way, meandering confidently through the wide breadth of its protagonist’s musical range to deliver a positively-tuned anthem fit for the summertime, and emblematic of Nigeria’s continued rise as a source for musical ingenuity on a global scale.