Despite Grammy Loss, Davido’s Resurgence Continues

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After the release of Stand Strong, Davido’s sole output of 2022 excluding features, fans were initially sceptical about what to do with the peculiar, gospel-leaning track. It took a little while for its essence to settle—Davido had endured a number of high-profile setbacks in his personal and professional life, and this was his rallying cry to himself, a reminder of his never-say-die spirit. His most challenging test, however, was still to come.

In November 2022, a home accident claimed the life of Ifeanyi, Davido’s 3-year-old son, effectively bringing a halt to his album plans and threatening to leave a dent on his music career. Less than two years later, however, Davido is learning to overcome grief and working to pull himself back to his feet. He was nominated in three categories at the recently-held 2024 Grammys, and although he was unable to convert any of these into a win, the 31-year-old songstar will see this milestone as an encouragement to work harder. In the meantime, his first entry into Billboard Hot 100 charts adds another feather to his cap and a promise of even greater things to come. 

After he made his debut in 2011 via the duo of Back When and the sizzling Dami Duro, Davido instantly became the focus of national attention and a pointer to the future of Nigerian music.  Already Wizkid had announced himself a year prior with singles like Holla At Your Boy and Don’t Dull, and for the next few years, they stood side by side, forging a path for the nascent Afrobeats genre in Nigeria and beyond. Many music fans pledged their allegiance to one of these stars, and our musical summit looked to be set for the near future. New artists emerged and dominated headlines and airplay for a season—like when Mr. Eazi’s Banku music and Tekno’s electrifying rhythms (and dance steps) held Nigeria spellbound through the mid ‘10s—but each era, especially at its ending, only emphasized just how difficult it was for these two luminaries to hold their own for several years. Burna’s entry into this selection through a superb run in the late 2010s complicated things, not only because three is bigger and harder to keep up with than two, but the inclusion of a new entrant to the selection meant a possibility of further additions, and replacements.

Nigerian music began to cater more and more to a listener base that consisted effectively of the whole world—not just Nigerians within and outside the country. This shift in ambition for the biggest Nigerian stars meant a consequent shift in the criteria by which they were judged, and it was always going to be a matter of time before this new hurdle reshaped the industry’s power list. At first, Davido kept up with his contemporaries, and for a while, he was even the pacesetter: his 2017 release, Fall, was the first Nigerian song to be certified Gold by the RIAA in the US. The acceleration of ‘Afrobeats To The World’ in the years that followed, however, left Davido off the pace. From 2018 through 2023, Burna Boy and Wizkid debuted on Billboard charts, sold out stadiums in the UK and won Grammy awards. By the time Davido earned his first platinum certification in 2023 for Fall, all of Wizkid, Burna Boy, Tems and CKay had already secured theirs. The Big 3 had become more of a ceremonial position and less a reflection of Nigerian music’s status, especially in a global context. 

Davido’s Timeless debuted in March 2023, five months after the incident that forced its postponement. Musically, it represented a back to basics for Davido, after A Better Time had attempted to secure him stateside penetration with big American features (Nicki Minaj, Lil Baby, Young Thug), but instead emerged an incoherent mix. Timeless was a return to the home-grounded approach of A Good Time and to good music in general, with collaborators selected almost exclusively from creators of African descent. Its biggest song, Unavailable, a cross-cultural handshake between Nigeria and South Africa, has earned praise and streams for how it beautifully blends Afropop and Amapiano without anything seeming forced. 

The results are beginning to show that Davido’s reversal of his crossover tactics—creating Afro-centric music for a global audience—has worked out so well. A Grammy nod had long eluded him, but in November his first three nominations were announced—Best African Music Performance for Unavailable, Best Global Music Performance for Feel, and Best Global Music Album for Timeless. And while the award night ended in disappointment for him, Davido can hold on to a consolation. This comes in the announcement of his first entry to the Billboard Hot 100 via Chris Brown’s Sensational (feat. Lojay). It is another long-eluded milestone, one which has already been crossed by a list of stars that includes newer colleagues like Fireboy and BNXN. 

It is now a year and a half since Davido’s career was brought to a pause in the most tragic way. His return to making music, even without these achievements, would already be worthy of applause for the mental fortitude it reflects, but these triumphs add the icing on the cake. In October last year, a year after his son’s death, the singer welcomed a set of twins with his wife, Chioma Rowland, and spoke about how his faith and family pulled him through the nightmare period. It’s therefore a time of return and resurgence, and if we know one thing about Davido, it is that his persevering spirit allows him to bounce back from any obstacle, so his recent setback at the Grammys will only invigorate him to greater exploits