Asa wrings out her bleeding heart on her fourth studio album, Lucid. Lamenting and telling us about her grief-stricken relationship, she reveals the pain of a dejected woman on the quest for vengeance and healing. The album is a thrill. It’s disjointed but when carefully listened to and mentally arranged, the songs will piece up and the album becomes a beautiful tale of an unrequited romantic relationship that hits the rocks.
Unfolding slowly, the album is easy to listen to; striking, and fragile. Filling every track with ear-grabbing and heartfelt stories, Asa spiels off songs that narrate her fragile relationship, her silky voice fusing well with album’s jazz production. Before she gets trapped in the ragged-edges of her love affair, she goes partying with her friends on the joyous, swinging Happy People. She paints a beautiful picture of Lagos’ Owambe on the song, describing how the ladies dress up in fineries and go partying all weekend. On You and Me, she wants to impress her lover by taking him around the world. The happiness in her voice is spot on. Asa has never been this bold and asserting. The last time she was this brave was on Be My Man, off her sophomore, Beautiful Imperfection. Now she is holding her man by the shirt, demanding they globe-trot, enjoy the best meals in the finest hotels around the world, and make love until the sunsets.
After touring the world, enjoying every moment together, she wants her man to take her down the aisle and puts a ring on her finger. But it seems her man is not ready, hence Asa convincing him on Until We Try (This lo’). “Baby you never know,” she persuades her lover, “until we try this out.” Though she knows her man is a silver-tongued lothario she still wants him. Isn’t that risk-taking? Well, that’s what love does. After all, love, they say, is blind.
The album’s lead single My Dear is the recorded anguish of a bride anxiously waiting for her groom on her wedding day. She is restless, fearing her lover won’t turn up for their wedding. Dealing with mixed feelings, she is also afraid he might be held in the hellish Lagos traffic. She suggests he hops on an Okada or a Keke Marwa because her friends and family are waiting for his arrival. And though we’re not told if her man shows up, it seems he did.
It’s easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the end. Gloom has been looming on their relationship since their wedding day, but Asa chooses to ignore iT. She believes her man will change for good, but he never does. The jazz instruments of 365 coupled with Asa’s suppliant voice creates an atmosphere of grief. The song opens with the gentle tuck of a guitar allowing the dejected and love-lorn Asa recounts how long she has been with her man—five years. Despite her love, sacrifice, and dedication—as narrated on Makes No Sense— her love is unrequited. She is angry, requesting her man to show her love and prove to the world that he cares for her. Sadly, their love has soured. Her lover’s heart is stone-cold, he is not capable of loving her.
The dreadful feeling one gets when one realizes that a long-term relationship is about to shatter is disheartening. Stay Tonight sees Asa begging her man to stay with her for the night, despite the disagreement between them. And creating a theatre of forlorn and sorrow, on the soulful ballad Don’t Let Me Go, she begs her man not to let her go. She wants him to hold her and love her as he did in the past. But instead of loving her, her man puts an end to their relationship. While on Femi Mo, she narrates how her lover calls her and severs their tottering affair. She laments the death of the relationship, crying and asking her lover if it’s okay to end a ten-year relationship. Well, that’s the end, nothing more, nothing less.
Still, Asa hasn’t given up on the dead relationship. She believes they can mend fences and start all over again. On The Beginning, she implores her man to let them go back to the beginning, where everything was beautiful and calm. The song is a grieving of hope that’s accentuated by Asa’s dulcet vocals. It’s also a pretty bit of songwriting, another appealing ballad that retains the album’s pathos. The beat slinks and bounces, as she lets out a plea for a reunion. “Let’s go back to the beginning,” her haunting voice begs.
What’s the point of loving someone who doesn’t love one in return? Over time she becomes weary of trying to save the crumbling relationship. She lets fly her emotion, telling her man to go to hell on Good Thing, while explaining how much of an ingrate he is—he never appreciated a good thing. And to that end, she moves on with her life, leaving him to enjoy his life. But there is no fun for a broken heart. So, on the aptly titled Torn, the crestfallen Asa recounts how tumbled her emotion is, regretting how she was neglected and used by her lover. And craving for revenge, she wishes to rip her lover’s heart into two. However, she had her revenge. On the album’s grisly opener, Murder In USA, she explains how she bumps off her lover. “Who is gonna save me now / I shot my lover and I ran away,” she laments. After committing the murder, she tries running but is apprehended by the police.
A few months after the demise of her relationship; a few months after she has knocked off her man; a few months later when her broken heart has healed, infusing gravitas with gentleness, on the triumphant 9 lives, she celebrates breaking free from the toxic relationship. In celebration of her freedom, she sings: “I’m the one with 9 lives, you only kill me three times / No more surrender, no more backing down / No more tears stuck in my eyes.” She is not just healing; she is a shining star brightening other people’s hearts. On the second verse, she encourages the boy on the street, who is waging a war from within (himself) and the girl who refuses to be abused by her man, never to give up on life.
Lucid is a departure from Asa’s previous offerings—it’s more personal and less political. Lyrically, she offers a simple but existentially fascinating album that reeks of broken heart and death. Almost every song on the album addresses heartache in one form or another and her ability as a storyteller remains unrivaled. Her clever, distinct use of timbre and her vocal phrasing are impeccable—they are full of energy and grief, beauty and loss, she makes a sweet album from the foible tale of a sour romantic relationship. Sonically, the album is well-laced with piano-led ballads, sparsely graced with gentle strings and soft brass, all teaming up to tell a lovely tale of the brokenhearted.
On the downside, the album is asymmetric. Its themes are scattershot. It could have been arranged in chronological order. With that, the audience will easily grasp the songs’ messages. Careful listening to the album will provide a journey of joy and heartache, melancholy and murder. We know from the start that something terrible happens to her, but we don’t know how she gets there. Though the introductory track ‘Murder In USA’ ushers us into the album’s wistful tale, that’s not where the story begins. The story begins from the cheerful ‘Happy People’, slowly winds down the lonesome path of heartbreak on ‘Femi Mo’ and ‘Torn’, oscillates back to the opening track, ‘Murder In USA’, and closes on ‘9 Lives’.
Lucid is a whiplash of emotion, a carefully crafted blow to the heart, an end-product of a wizened soul, a letter of self-discovery. And though it doesn’t break new ground—not as grandeur as her previous offerings, it’s a mild, puny spot in her luscious oeuvre—it’s a beautiful album that’s designed for the brokenhearted. It strikes a chord.