A lot has happened in 2020, but as the year draws to a close, it is imperative to take note of a couple of outstanding events that shaped the Nigerian music industry. The presence of COVID-19 did not only change the world, it shaped everything in it. In the Nigeria music space, 2020 will be remembered as a year that invoked deep reflections from many Nigerian acts, thereby inspiring a myriad of creative outputs.
This led to an overall increase in the number of album releases in the year by Nigerian artistes than any other recent one. In the year alone, we saw albums from acts such as Davido, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Brymo, Fireboy, Olamide, Tekno, Kiss Daniel, Yemi Alade, Reekado Banks, Tiwa Savage, Simi, Adekunle, and many more. Twice as Tall, Made in Lagos, A Better Time and Carpe Diem by Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, and Olamide respectively were the major highlights of the year.
For many entertainers, the year did not only give them ample time to work on their arts, it also gave them the opportunity to improve the outputs. Speaking in an interview with Naomi Campbell, on his 2020 album release, Wizkid posited that of all his body of works, Made in Lagos was his best album as he had all the time to work, tweak, and finally present it on 30, October 2020 after so much anticipation. Davido also opined that unlike other times where he was cut up doing shows and concerts, the COVID-19 year gave him the opportunity to work with international acts like Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Lil Baby, and Nas who featured in his album, A Better Time.
Following the impositions of lockdown measures, online streaming witnessed a huge surge. In the year, music streaming platforms recorded an overwhelming increase in the number of users and subscribers. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed up internet use by a wide margin and accelerated music streaming global market. Most people who rarely spend a day or two at home were bored, so they took to streaming platforms to kill time and boredom. According to CounterPoint, global subscriptions hit 394 million in the first quarter of 2020. Although it witnessed a decline in Q2, the numbers raked in so much for the market. This saw the creative outputs of Nigerian artistes record huge numbers across music streaming platforms like never before. Davido’s A Better Time album released only a month ago already has 107 million streams on Audiomack. On BoomPlay, Fireboy and Simi top with the most streams.
On Spotify, Wizkid’s album, Made in Lagos, cupped about 10 million streams in less than one week of its release. Songs off Olamide’s Carpe Diem album, especially “Infinity” have remained at the top of charts. Burna Boy’s album, Twice as Tall, which currently has a hundred streams on Audiomack, has gone on to be nominated in the Grammy Awards in the category of “World Global Album” for 2021. Tiwa Savage’s album, Celia, has also been named in TIME Magazine’s Top Ten Album for 2020.
In the same way, a number of rising artistes like Omah Lay, Bella Shmurda, and Tems will forever be grateful to the year as their musical careers recorded outstanding success. Omah Lay especially came into spotlight in the year with his Get Layd EP. The EP which became an instant commercial success immediately shot him up and earned him huge space in the Nigerian music industry, with features and international recognitions. In the year alone, Omah Lay became the most streamed Afrobeat artiste across digital platforms like Audiomack, Apple music, Deezer, amongst others. He went on to grab Apple Music Most Favourite New Artiste a month after releasing the album. He was also named BET Amplified International Artiste for the month of November.
Although Omah Lay’s “Bad Influence” continues to buzz the net, his “Godly” song from his recent album, What We Have Done, has remained in the top category for weeks in major streaming platforms. Omah Lay has gone on to join Tems, Oxlade, and Bella Shmurda in the Next Rated category at the Headies Awards. It is not surprising these acts are nominees for the category as they have some of the finest songs that raved 2020. “Damages” and “Cash App” respectively by Tems and Bella Shmurda will remain one of the top songs in 2020. Oxlade’s EP, Oxygene, which features some of his major hits like “Away” and “Hold on”, is also worthy of mention.
The presence of COVID-19 also made virtual events a major talk point in2020 . Many award organizers had to go for the virtual option. The year equally brought about the first-ever virtual ceremonies of many awards like AFRIMMA, Future Awards Africa, MOBO, BET, NET Honours People’s Choice Awards, Arise Fashion Show, and that of Headies and MTV Base which will come up in 2021.
The contribution of Nigerian musicians to the original EndSARS protest about police brutality is worthy of mention. The protest which started on October 8, 2020 began with Runtown on October 4, who wrote on his twitter:
“This has gone long enough and now we MUST take action! I’ll be leading a protest to #ENDSARS on Thursday, October 8th 2020. They MUST listen to us, they MUST make/effect REAL and VISIBLE changes! Empty promises won’t work this time!!!”
“Let’s all come out to peacefully reach out to our “Elected” leaders beyond social media!!! Venue/Take Off Point: Lekki Phase 1, Toll Gate.”
Runtown was joined by his fellow acts such as Falz, Tiwa Savage, Peter Okoye, amongst others. When the protest got to a boiling point, they were bolstered by other top celebrities in the music space. Wizkid who was in London at the time led the protest there. Burna Boy also lent his voice to the protest by having his paid-for billboard placed at the Lekki Tollgate. Davido was instrumental as he took to the streets of Abuja to join his ever teeming fans. The Fall Crooner was even part of those who presented the demands of the protesters to the Inspector General of Police.
This show of altruism, alongside other events in the year made the turbulent year fairly desirable. While a lot has happened in the year, the widespread presence of COVID-19 was the overall shaper of 2020. From the imposition of lockdowns across the world to the incorporation of several COVID-19 guidelines in daily life, 2020 will forever remain a year the music world will always remember.