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A Pulse album review of ‘Legend or No Legend’ by Wande Coal

His ability to effortlessly mold melody, his versatility, and his famous vocals set him apart in the industry, and although he has failed to deliver a project that replicates the quality of his debut, his influence is palpable and enduring.

His sophomore album ‘Wanted‘ came 7 years after his debut and his third project came 5 years after his sophomore. While ‘Wanted’ offered a number of enjoyable tracks, the album didn’t achieve the critical acclaim needed to re-establish his dominance. And although different factors account for the shortcomings, a major one would be the distance between both albums.

Wande Coal’s talent is superlative and perhaps this is his Achilles Hill as he has consistently displayed a playful approach to music. His effortless ability to navigate sound allowed him to easily freestyle his way across music and while this chilled approach has delivered multiple timeless hits like ‘Kiss Your Hand’, it would gradually become tedious as the soundscape evolved.

When he released ‘Realms’ amid the pandemic-inspired music release rush, the 7-track EP had 3 already released tracks and a remix of one of those tracks. The decision to release such EP at that particular point when the industry was undergoing a major shift in music creation, release, and consumer behavior encapsulates Wande Coal’s reluctance to leave his comfort zone.

Between 2020 to 2023, Wande Coal will enjoy strong moments with tracks like ‘Iskaba’, ‘My Woman’ feat Patoranking, ‘Somiso’, and ‘Come My Way’. However, as has been a recurring issue after his debut, Wande Coal struggles to put these moments together for a compelling project.

Wande Coal told Dada Boy Ehiz that the reason he choose to name his album ‘Legend or No Legend’ was because of the conversation surrounding his status in the industry. This conversation is familiar to any music fan with a Twitter account, and no matter which side of the divide you stand on, you’re likely to find the title choice curious.

The album was heralded by the hit record ‘Come My Way’ which extended Wande Coal’s over a decade run of hits. ‘Kpe Paso’ feat by Olamide offered important to build up excitement which was largely doused by the artistic banality of ‘Let Them Know’.

Listeners keenly anticipated the album as it appears to be a major point in Wande Coal’s career and decisive in determining his place in the scheme of things.

‘Legend or No Legend’ was expected to be Wande Coal’s effort in rolling back the years and remind listeners of the celestial ability that made him so revered. And indeed, the album reminded listeners of Wande Coal’s talent, but more than that, it’s a reminder of his overly relaxed approach to music.

While Wande Coal is a great freestyler who can deliver great tracks in a flash, his reliance on this approach has not strongly resonated with young listeners the way it did in the past.

The album kicked off on an underwhelming note as the Afrobeat and Calypso blend offered a good deep cut, that quite frankly, doesn’t cut a befitting opener.

Even when he talks about finding motivation in his financial struggles in the Swing record ‘3 Square Meal’ the writing, melody, and delivery mostly land as a freestyle and this is even more noticeable in the closing seconds where he was speaking like Col. H. Stinkmeaner.

Now, while most Afropop records have large freestyle components, none is quite noticeable as much as Wande Coal whose tracks appear to be just a one-take.

His versatility shines on the record as he explores different genres. He delivers Trap in ‘Dues’ which reminds listeners of the Wande Coal of a decade ago. And while it’s one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album, the closing chants might be offputting for some listeners. Although the Yoruba traditional elements are better suited for another song, the rousing effects it packs and the deification it symbolizes are notable.

Wande Coal is always in his element when he’s talking up himself and ‘E Choke’ is one of the good moments on the album that rolls back the years while also staying in the present through Kel P‘s memorable production.

Listeners finally got to experience what it would be to have Wande Coal and T Pain with whom he shares sonic familiarity on a track together. The result is the best track in the album that’s aided by a smooth blend of Street essence in Wande Coal’s incorporation of Fuji techniques and street-appropriate writing.

‘Ebelebe’ with Wizkid shows two defining curves in the evolution of Afropop. Two curves that have now run their course and offer little artistic excitement. The closing four tracks maintain a pedestrian approach that makes for an underwhelming run. Essentially, the closing seconds of ‘Jabo’ feat Fireboy captures most part of the album as Wande Coal engages in a falsetto display to add some excitement to an underwhelming song.

All through the album, Wande Coal didn’t quite address the topic of his place in the industry. He primarily preoccupied himself with showing off his cadences.

‘Legend or No Legend’ has good moments, especially for some of the production on the album. However, it’s not a rounded body of work that offers convincing artistic elements. The album relies almost entirely on Wande Coal’s vocal range and ability to freestyle rather than on exciting compositions.

While Wande Coal might be just a little too Wande for his own good, the album approach, track selection, sequencing, and overall execution is an indictment on those charged with offering him artistic guidance.

It might be relatively easy to freestyle a track but it’s quite difficult to freestyle a project even for a special talent like Wande Coal. And this is the bane of ‘Legend of No Legend’. This a very familiar limitation that most listeners have come to accept but still find inevitably disappointing.

It might appear that Wande Coal might have further opened the door for the conversation regarding his status in the industry as the album title suggest he might be unsure of his place.

However, this writer would like to see the title as Wande Coal’s response to the conversation regarding his status in the industry. It shows that he doesn’t care for public opinion. However, it would have helped if the album carried a compelling quality rather than an unbothered approach.

To answer this question, ‘Legend or No Legend’ shouldn’t and can’t determine Wande Coal’s place in the industry. In this writer’s opinion, it’s a chapter in an already-written book. The book of his legend.

Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.5/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2

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