Davido’s return to music was always going to be met with the greatest cheer and relief; friends and business associates can give testaments to the warm, vivacious personality he is outside the studio, and every fan who has interacted with his music knows just how faithfully this personality is represented inside of it.
And with the circumstances responsible for the postponement of the album from its 2022 release date being as harrowing as can be—the unfortunate passing of a son—the reactions to his return are as ecstatic as anticipated. For though he is popular as the man with a large heart, there were a few who feared his return to be a possibility rather than a certainty.
Timeless scratches at some of the hurt he has had to survive through the last few years, but his non-chronological approach to narration reveals that what was thought to be forgotten may have had a larger impact on him; certain scars were not buried as completely as originally assumed. It is not surprising; perhaps the only thing worse than recurrently losing close friends is having mourning periods interrupted by whispers of atrocious allegations that you might have had something to do with it.
Davido confronts loss on the fittingly-named “LCND”, or Legends Can Never Die, tapping into ancient wisdom on the continuity of life and death as he inserts himself into that cycle. He begins this track by remembering the fallen (“Life is not fair/ Lost many of my guys”) before acknowledging his own mortality (“I just wan flex this life oh/ Before I leave this life oh”).
Davido does not let any parts of the album get dampened by the burden he carries, and although he would prefer we did not assume the cheerful ease with which he carries it to imply its nonexistence, he does not intend for us to leave with any of it. So this song is tucked in the last lap of the album, where it is given little chance to somberly set its tone, and it is delivered with fairly vibrant production and songwriting that will camouflage its essence to the inattentive ear.
And it’s just as well, because Timeless situates Davido in the balance between living his present life to the fullest and leaving a legacy that will last forever. It is on these legs that he stands the album, and the reason for which the majority of the LP focuses on the present.
“GODFATHER” sees Davido back to his charismatic best, as he pulls his friends for what promises to be a fun-filled night. “Tonight I want to call out/ Igbadun is important” he says, stressing on party occasions like this to be vital for communion and relaxation—”I no dey joke with my peace of mind/ Pass me the igbo make I feel alright”. It is on the hook that the song’s title is most reflected, and Davido is ever-proud of the calibre of careers he has helped build, men whose loyalties he has won simply by having had an active involvement in their growth.
References to brotherhood litter the album, and such proclamations on the accomplished men in his circle give as much credit to them as it does to his own transformative mentorship, an outlook evocative of the apprenticeship system that principled the Italian mafia as depicted in Mario Puzo’s “Godfather” books and movies.
But unlike Don Corleone and organised crime, Davido has DMW, a major Nigerian record label which deputises as the instrument with which he has pushed some talented artists and music business professionals closer to dreams they were otherwise too poor to buy. Current and former signees of the label currently enjoy spots among Nigerian music’s elite, with Mayorkun and Peruzzi being the most popular names. Other acts like Dremo, Liya, Idowest and more also took their biggest steps under his wings, and connected journalists have spoken about this platform to have been more of a family than an actually profitable business.
But there are always a few who take advantage of generosity, and for them Davido opens his album in firing form. “OVER DEM” simultaneously recognises betrayal while asserting his conviction that the culprits will always remain beneath him, and his summation of this is biblically succinct—”If dem wan turn Goliath/ I be David for life”. And like elsewhere on the album, sonic landscape is untouched by the darkness of his material; his album opener bounces over simple, snappy production.
The subsequent track, “Feel”, shares a similar sonic template, and even a passing of the production baton from Young Alpha to Blaisebeatz does not disrupt the flow between the tracks. If anything, it exposes a back-to-basics call from Davido, back to A Good Time and its deployment of simple, midtempo Afropop before A Better Time’s outsized ambitions and collaborations that came at major expenses to cohesion and pure entertainment.
This time, even an international featured act, Skepta, can point to Ghanaian origins that ensure he can classify as a continental feature on “U (JUJU)”, even if just barely. Most other guest artists bear unquestionable ties to Africa and mostly Nigeria, and Timeless benefits from the synergy they bring.
South Africans Musa Keys and Focalistic make appearances, and as is common practice, Davido is able to use their national ties as a unforced link to the Amapiano genre. This is to varied results, however, so while Musa Keys’ slippery, yet congruous verse on “UNAVAILABLE” is one of the highlights of the entire album, Focalistic’s contribution, “Champion Sound”, continues to draw comparison to 2021’s “Ke Star” Remix, a battle it cannot hope to win with its relatively amateur production.
If the watchword was diversity, however, they have brought it in buckets, and they help the album escape allegations of monochromaticity. “NA MONEY”, the neo-highlife track featuring The Cavemen and Angélique Kidjo, may generate some polarised reactions as to the question of just how much variety is too much, but these features are important additions in the regard of how they intersperse other tracks to create an album that will be heterogeneous without losing African identity.
On the home front, some guest artists are expectedly pooled from the roster of DMW artists, but the new faces we are introduced to this time—Morravey and Logos Olori—are the biggest indicators of the refresh at the record label. It is then left to the duo, via appearances on “IN THE GARDEN” and “PICASSO” respectively, to make their first major impressions on the Nigerian audience. At the very least, their distinctively alluring vocals show where Davido’s A&R teams had their focus at their recruitment.
2022’s man of the year, Asake, and Fave of the “Baby Riddim” fame are two of the most prominent Nigerian figures enlisted, and they are brought on to support groovy pop singles. After this, similarity thins considerably. Fave is backed by frequent collaborator Damie who was behind the boards for hit singles “Baby Riddim” and “Scatta Scatta”.
He brings some of the effervescent Carribean feel of the latter and the honeyed romance of the former, as a result of which Fave is home away from home cruising on “KANTE”. Asake, contrarily, is not granted his choice tools—log drums or a Europop beat—and so he and his backup vocals are not maximally utilised on “No Competition”, an oversight that is more puzzling when you realise there are more fitting tracks on the album for his sensibilities.
Perhaps an argument can be made for Davido’s intentions to stick to the safe and familiar supplanting his desire to provide each guest with the perfect habitat. With so much hinging on this album as a re-establishment of his status in an industry that is quick to replace unperforming kings, and even more pressure emerging after the tragic incident that delayed its arrival, Timeless was set up to be Davido’s watershed, the answer to a hundred questions bordering on his longevity, ability, international viability and mental fortitude.
Of Nigeria’s current leading contingent, Davido remains the most connected to home, and while this has undoubtedly come at the cost of some commercial opportunities available across the Atlantic, Timeless exposes that Davido ranks high up legendary status, a true and enduring impact to be felt by millions.
Through recent losses, much more than any one man should have to bear, he has learnt the unfortunate way the brevity of human life, and so in what time he has left he will attempt it all. He wants to leave a legacy that will be remembered through time, build an empire, and most importantly, have all the fun in the world doing it—for he wouldn’t be Davido if he didn’t meet every challenge with the biggest smile on his face.