2021 was a rollercoaster for Afrobeats and a difficult year to top. It wasn’t just in the sonic shifts of the genres, but the number of releases, an afrobeats grammy album, and coming out of the pandemic with afrobeats truly going global from billboard charts appearances to sold-out shows and thrilling performances across the world.
2022 is halfway done, and Afrobeats’ success isn’t slowing down; it’s moving at a dizzying speed. A lot has happened for a genre that started as copies of American songs. This year has seen Tems and Don Jazzy launch their shows on Apple Music, Larry Gaaga getting appointed Vice President of A&R at Def Jam, the death of legendary Nigerian musician Orlando Julius, and lots more. We look back at the biggest of this year and what they mean for Afrobeats.
Mavin At 10
Without a doubt, Mavin is Nigeria’s biggest label. It has successfully been instrumental to two generations of Afrobeats stars, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In a country where knowledge and experience don’t get institutionalized, Mavin’s success stands out for several reasons. It proves that labels are still essential in developing artists and creating stars. In a world where as Africans, we face the constant reminder of the need to gatekeep our culture, having a label that has been successful for ten years shows that we have the expertise, are the best talents in developing and pushing our culture, and ensures that we continue to play a major role in pushing our culture. Mavin’s success isn’t just the success of its investors, owners, employees, and artists, but a success for the Nigerian music industry.
There is probably no better metric for a song’s success than the number of people willing to pay to see it perform. This year, everyone wants to see and hear afrobeats outside. In the last six months, we’ve seen way more afrobeats artists than ever perform at their own sold-out shows and tours, appear on American T.V., and appear on every single festival or concert lineup this year. We’ve seen Pheelz transition from producer to artist, getting booked across the world off the success of one hit song. Adekunle Gold cemented his international pop star status -the last on his transition from highlife singer to pop icon- with a U.S. tour. Ckay having crowds across the world hum along to a 2019 sleeper hit. Tiwa Savage and Davido give out thrilling performances to crowds on their U.S. tour. Burna Boy selling out Madison Square Gardens, venues in countries that make you pause in surprise, and performing at Glastonbury. The star of them all; Tems, having her own sold-out U.S. tour, appearing on almost every festival lineup in the U.S. while having crowds passionately sing back to her and performing to over 200,000 people at Glastonbury Festival.
From Pheelz performing at the red carpet show to Fireboy’s performance on the main stage and Tems stealing the night, 2022 BETs were a wonderful moment for Afrobeats. The BETs award night was the first time an afrobeats song/artist won a mainstream U.S. award outside of the international/world category. It shows how far we’ve come from being handed awards backstage.
On Tuesday, June 28, The Recording Academy (the organization behind the grammy awards) sent out invites to over 2,000 people to become voting members and over 600 additional people to become professional (non-voting) members. Of the 2600+ people invites were sent to, a number were afrobeats artists and professionals from Ghana (Moliy, Maxwell Adjavon, Elizabeth Ntiamoah-Quarshie, and Kwame “Kwaps” Obeng Kwapong), Nigeria (Bizzle Osikoya, Foza, Oxlade, and Praiz) and Empire’s marketing manager for Africa and the diaspora Stephanie Adamu.
Getting invited to the highest American musical award body helps ensure that as our music breaks into America, our voices and perspectives are involved in the conversation and decision-making around defining and awarding it in the U.S.
Ckay’s Love Nwantiti has been certified in over 11 countries, Essence in over four countries, and Peru in the U.S. and U.K. While these songs were not released this year, it has been great to see Afrobeats songs be more than just a passing wave, radio or streaming hit.
TurnTable Announces a Top 100
In March, TurnTable Charts made a couple of announcements about changes to their charts, partnerships, and plans. One of these was the launch of three aggregated music charts:
TurnTable Top 100: an expanded Top 50 singles popularity-based chart
TurnTable Top 200: a consumption-based albums chart
TurnTable Top Artiste 100: a performance-based artiste chart
The most exciting of these charts is the TurnTable Top 100, which will launch on Monday, March 11. To make the chart fair and comprehensive, an advisory board made up of experienced stakeholders from different sectors of the music industry; tech, executives, journalists, law, data, and radio, will advise on the chart policies and changes to be made over time.
TurnTables Top 100 would finally provide a standardized chart to track how well songs do within Nigeria.
U.S. Afrobeats Songs Chart
On March 29, the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart went live. Billboard had previously announced it was partnering with Afro Nation to launch the first-ever Afrobeats chart in the U.S. The chart ranks the most popular 50 Afrobeats songs in the United States based on official streams and downloads. We’ve seen Ckay, Tems, Fireboy, and Wizkid top the chart in the four months since it launched.
The chart proves how successful Afrobeat has become in the United States and how much growth potential Afrobeat has.