In 2022, it is not gainsay to say that Tems is afrobeats’ biggest surprise, at least she has surprised me so far.
My first introduction to Temilade Openiyi was on Ladipoe’s track Falling from his project Talk.About.Poe.
As a rap head who was solely interested in the “bars” and was very fascinated with Ladipoe at the time, you will forgive me for paying a little less attention to the melodic aspects of that project, a crack the Tems feature regrettably slipped through.
Falling would be the last time I failed to pay attention to Tems. Beginning from strategic Ad placements for Jameson Whiskey, to my Gen Z siblings annoyingly humming Try me, by the end of 2019 it was clear that Tems was here to stay.
However, nobody expected the monster year that 2020 was going to be for Tems.
Tems began 2020 with a Wizkid co-sign. The Ojuelegba crooner had tweeted that they had both made magic in the studio, however for Nigeria and the rest of the world, 2020 would be anything but magical; yet in the midst of the pandemic and civil unrest, Tems slowly emerged into the Nigerian zeitgeist, sometimes for her talent and other times for the mystery surrounding her physical features.
Tems and I created magic 😇❤️🦅
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) February 23, 2020
In the same way, she opened 2020, she closed the year with Wizkid, assisting him with her magical vocals on Essence.
With the benefit of hindsight, it must have seemed as though Essence was always headed for greatness, but upon release the song was met with mixed reviews from listeners and was considered somewhat a filler track even by Wizkid’s management.
On A Day In The Live, a Wizkid YouTube concert aimed at promoting Made in Lagos, Essence was left out the setlist of songs and just like me with Ladipoe’s project in 2018, the world had let Tems slip through its crack but also just like me it would be the last time the world would ignore Tems.
By 2022, the world had caught up with Tems, she had topped Billboard, earned a Grammy nomination, won BET Awards, released critically acclaimed EP, a Drake and Future feature, a Rihanna co-sign and Adele fan moment. By 2022 crazy tings had happened for Tems.
Where Tems was surprising, Tiwa Savage is everlasting. Few artistes in Nigeria can boast of the longevity and catalog of Tiwa Savage. Save for names such as Asa, Sasha P and and MoCheddah, there were little to no female artistes dominating the Afropop/Afrohiphop space when Tiwa came on the scene. A scene she never left.
When the history of Afrobeats is written, Tiwa Savage will portray the image of the quintessential pop star, a perfect combination of hits, classic projects, star power, and scandals. Asides Kanye West it is hard to think of any contemporary artiste who has come out of numerous potentially career-ending scandals nearly unscathed as Tiwa Savage.
Over the course of her career, Tiwa has been in the headlines for rivalries with other female artistes, failed romance with ex-husband Tee Billz, rumored romance with Wizkid, and an ill-fated sex tape, but as a testament to her talent, she remains best known for the music. Word to Drake.
Just like Yemi Alade, Seyi Shay and Simi before her, Tems has been compared to Tiwa Savage.
In terms of musical styles and sensibilities, the comparison seems mismatched but every contender is going to be compared to the king.
A self-confessed capitalist, I believe that competition produces better goods and services. One can argue that Tiwa’s consistency at the top has been helped by the fierce competition she has faced over the years from mainstream female acts that have come on to the scene after her.
This era of Nigerian music is themed ‘Afrobeats to the World”. These days Nigerian artistes produce projects with the aim of getting international acclaim and appeal. Like her peers, Tiwa has tailored her projects starting from Celia for international consumption, with Somebody’s Son featuring Brandy being her most successful offering yet.
Tems is an international streaming giant and her music in comparison to Tiwa is more palatable to international listeners. I believe she is the biggest competition needed for Tiwa’s global push.
The competition between Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido was a major factor in propelling their international dominance perhaps healthy competition between Tems and Tiwa Savage will achieve the same results.
While people view competition between Tiwa Savage and Tems as an avenue for one to extinguish the other, the reality is that the track record of Tiwa Savage and the doggedness of Tems will like to prove otherwise.