I watch yet another Cynthia Morgan video again, and the feeling isn’t one of interest, bewilderment or indifference. What I feel is disgust.
There is something revulsive about the video treatment, the branding and everyone generally involved in that production.
It seems like Cynthia Morgan’s career has stalled. She isn’t growing, as every new song and video, released by her team does not improve on her brand and business. Instead, it either has no effect, or takes away from it. It hurts her, rather than provide help.
Cynthia’s career seems to be in self-inflicted danger. She appears to be her own enemy, and this is why:
Cynthia’s Morgan branding isn’t attractive. You can call it edgy, sharp and intrusive to justify it. But an unwelcome flowing red hair, revealing outfits and that nose-ring isn’t the best of combinations for this market.
Nigerians are a reserved bunch, and no matter how we tend to express our tolerance and acceptance of diversity, our parochial conservative origins and culture still rules us. We aren’t collectively tolerant of extreme ideas.
Cynthia Morgan’s branding is extreme. She maintains the ‘bad girl’ image gotten from her Jamaican influences. Kingston (the capital of the home of dancehall) is an edgy city that Cynthia expresses as her spirit home.
But she doesn’t reside in the spirit. She exists and operates in the physical, and no matter how much “Kingston Property!” she screams in her songs, her hustle is in Nigeria, and that branding comes off as ‘too much’. Sometimes it crosses that ‘edgy’ realm, and can best be described as ‘dirty’. Nobody likes a dirty artiste.
Cynthia’s second liability is the application of her artistry. Just like her branding, she takes her artistry to the left. The full range of Cynthia Morgan’s musical abilities contains more than just Dancehall.
Contrary to what many fans know, her many strengths involve the use of vocals and songwriting skills to create music that traverses genres. Cynthia Morgan’s first true big song was not a dancehall song. It was a mushy urban Highlife single titled ‘Don’t break my part’. The song was released as a dual promo campaign together with another single ‘Lead me on’ in 2013. Her previous single was titled ‘Kuchi Kuchi’, and although it was ‘Dancehall’, it failed to spark.
‘Don’t break my heart’ lacked all the fiery characteristics of the Cynthia Morgan that we all know. It was girlie, mushy and heartwarming. There were no guns, threats of violence and bodily harm. Also lacking was the signature red colour, and the cascading hair. Cynthia was just a lovely, cute girl, with a song and a heart that is pink. Heck, she wasn’t even a ‘Kingston property’ back then.
‘I’m taken’ and ‘German juice’ are Cynthia Morgan’s biggest songs. These songs, brilliant and accepted, blew her profile, and made her become a force in the industry.
But things haven’t been so well with the singer’s next releases. Her next singles have noticeably not been accepted by the Nigerian public, irrespective of all the promotional moves and videos shot to make it come alive. Singles ‘Come and do’, ‘Simati Niya’, ‘Baby mama’, ‘Asampo’, have come and gone with no noticeable impact.
The most damning move of all was the singer’s controversial photo promotion for ‘Baby mama’, which gave her attention, but was not adequate to carry the song. The video for the single was a horrible piece of visual, best left alone to stew in its mediocrity and dirt.
Many would have blamed tough luck, and continued to throw music at the fans until one stuck again, but the singer tried a different route.
Cynthia Morgan’s new single ‘Olowo’ is different from anything she has ever done. It is so different, that you need explaining or second confirmation to agree that Cynthia made that song. Produced by QaseBeatz, the song has Cynthia in tune with her Afrobeat side.
Abandoning every link to Dancehall, Cynthia comfortably adds skill and dynamism to the layered arrangement, digging deep into a part of her craft that she has been too fast to abandon. Cynthia still finds ways to fuse her patois into the song, but its occurrence is so minimal, that one would be hard pressed to consider it a part of this song.
This diversity is great for Cynthia. With ‘Ólowo’ she finds a new formula to connect with fans in their comfort zone. That song was a win for artistry.
And then she reverted with ‘Bubble Bup’, another dancehall song with Stonebwoy. While we appreciate the collaboration with an act from a sister nation, that wasn’t the shot Cynthia needed. She needed to display another level of her creativity, not slap Nigeria with more dancehall.
The dancehall is great, but she is operating in a market that does not appreciate it deeply enough or hold it in high esteem. Let her ask her predecessors, especially General Pype, how acceptance of dancehall dwindles and extinguishes with each passing record. She needs to learn from Patoranking.
Patoranking is a dancehall singer who had balanced his craft, diversified his influences, made pop music, and stolen the hearts of the nation. From his 2013 hit song, ‘Alubarika’, which had an engaging reggae vibe, to the 2015 Highlife instrumentals supplied by the Ebonyi State Band on ‘Make am’, he had made music designed to play at the mainstream level, and appeal to the general populace.
This has had its benefits. A deal with VP Records was in the bag, he spent 2015 modelling for alcoholic beverage, Skyy Vodka. Last year Headies also saw his songs ‘My woman my everything’, and ‘Daniella Whine’ nominated. His debut album is out now, and he is still pushing his craft down to Jamaica, the home of his niche genre.
On his album, he digs into his influences from the ghetto and recreates Ajegunle, Konto, and dancehall music, polishing and modernizing these sounds to create an album that is in keeping with his original sound. There’s a welcome contrasting feeling that lingers due to the popular perception of Patoranking as a pop act, who achieves his brilliance via dancehall roots. That feeling has been propagated by the success of his singles.
“I started as a reggae dancehall artiste, and the truth is, the country is not rich when it comes to that culture. They love the sound because it’s different, and it’s new to them. And you know Nigerians. If you want to be here for a very long time, they don’t need to see you coming. I want to make music for everybody.” He revealed to Pulse.
For branding, Patoranking keeps it clean and upscale, which automatically increases his appeal and value. Cynthia Morgan has to play by that book. The skill is present. All she needs is to tweak it, and apply it with balance. As for the branding, everything needs to change.