121 Songs I Really, Really Listened to in 2018

 

Every year since 2012 has brought to me a different sort of musical satisfaction—I encountered sounds I loved, new artistes I’m watching. But the standout years were 2015 and 2017. To those I may now add 2018. I separated these 121 songs into groups of Constant Favourites, the ones that really swayed me, and Rotating Favourites.

Last year, there were 74 songs I liked the most, and my Number 1 was Shekhinah’s “Suited,” and the artiste I listened most to was Alan Walker. This year, my Number 1s are: Wale’s “Columbia Heights,” which shifted something in me; Geko’s “Will Smith,” which soundtracks my love life at the moment; Chike’s “Beautiful People,”which inspired me visually even though I haven’t seen its video, if it has a video; August Chuks’ “Let Me,” which felt like a finger was poking my insides; and Desiigner’s “Timmy Turner,” my ultimate intrigue. The artistes I most listened to are 6LACK, Janelle Monae, XXXTentacion, and Davido, for whom I found a new appreciation. In some way, all of these songs, these sounds, set me alight.

 

The Constant Favourites

“Columbia Heights,” Wale feat. J. Balvin

“Falling Down,” Lil Peep feat. XXXTentacion

“Will Smith,” Geko feat. Not3s

“Nwa Baby,” Davido

“Timmy Turner,” Desiigner

 

“Leave a Light On,” Tom Walker

“Let Me,” August Chuks

“Red Alert,” DJ Bobbi feat. Nyanda

“Moonlight,” XXXTentacion

“Beautiful People,” Chike

 

“Life Is Beautiful,” Lil Peep

“Malwedhe,” King Monada

“The Big Unknown,” Sade

“Stan,” 6LACK

“Decibels,” Jidenna

 

“Collide,” Lady Zamar

“Pretty Little Fears,” 6LACK feat. J. Cole

“Motigbana,” Olamide

“Sweet but Psycho,” Ava Max

“In My Mind,” Dynoro feat. Gigi d’Agostino

 

“Sunflower,” Post Malone feat. Swae Lee

“Promises,” Calvin Harris feat. Sam Smith

“Killin’ Me Softly,” The Fugees

“This Is Me,” Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Made for Now,” Janet Jackson

 

“Never,” Loren Allred, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Fever,” WizKid

“From Now On,” Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Let Her Go,” 6LACK

“Easy,” Anna Wise & Xavier Omar

 

“The Greatest Show,” The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Let You Love Me,” Rita Ora

“Way,” Falz feat. Wande Coal

“I Like That,” Janelle Monae

“Wait,” DJ Neptune feat. Kizz Daniel

 

“Make Me Feel,” Janelle Monae

“Django Jane,” Janelle Monae

“Africa,” Toto

“Stand by Me,” Ben E. King

“Fun won Finish,” Beambo Taylor

 

The Rotating Favourites

“My My My,” Troye Sivan

“Iwa,” Phyno feat. Tekno

“Nkechi,” Attitude

“Supermodel,” SZA

“Feel Good,” P-Lo feat. G-Eazy

 

“APESH*t,” The Carters

“X Bitch,” 21 Savage feat. Future

“Timmy’s Prayer,” Sampha

“Saint Pablo,” Kanye West feat. Sampha

“Borders,” St. Beauty

 

“Just Saying/I Tried,” The Internet

“Wo (Spiritual),” Olamide

“Tuwo Shinkafa,” Runtown

“Psycho,” KCEE feat. WizKid

“Kupe,” A-Star

“Fake Love,” Duncan Mighty feat. WizKid

 

“Kaabata,” Arrel

“High End,” Chris Brown feat. Future & Young Thug

“Chun Li,” Nicki Minaj

“Sicko Mode,” Travis Scott feat. Drake

“Spirit Break Out,” Kim Walker

“Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus

 

“Hold Yuh,” Gyptian

“Nani Gi,” Mairo Ese

“Ina the Benz,” Yung6ix

“Hey Baby,” Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike vs. Diplo feat. Deb’s Daughter

“Without Me,” Halsey

 

“Upon Me,” Kiss Daniel feat. SugarBoy

“Different,” Shekhinah feat. Mariechan

“Come Closer,” WizKid feat. Drake

“Champion (Remix),” General Pype feat. Dagrin, Naeto C & Sasha P

“Move,” Litle Mix

“Déjà vu,” Burna Boy

 

“High Hopes,” Panic! At the Disco

“No Stylist,” French Montana

“Call the Police,” Orezi

“Fast Car,” Jonas Blue feat. Dakota

“Dip,” Tyga feat. Nicki Minaj

 

“If,” Davido

“Be Together,” Major Lazer feat. Wild Belle

“Drew Barrymore,” Bryan Vince feat. Wale

“Better Now,” Post Malone

“Beautiful,” Bazzi feat. Camilla Cabello

 

“Woman Like Me,” Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj

“Be Mine!,” Robyn

“Bad and Boujee,” Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert

“Cream,” Tujamo feat. Danny Avila

“She Works Hard for the Money,” Donna Summers

“6 Inches,” Beyonce feat. The Weeknd

 

“My Love,” McDonald

“O Chukwu,” Clay

“DUNK CONTEST (MAGIC BIRD),” Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed

“Fashion Killa,” A$AP Rocky

“Dance to This,” Troye Sivan feat. Ariana Grande

“Plot Twist,” Marc E. Bassey feat. Kyle

“Hey Hey Hey,” Katy Perry

 

“Bad (Remix),” Wale feat. Rihanna

“Tatashe,’ Percy feat. Peruzzi

“Ayepo (Remix),” Airboy feat. Burna Boy

“FEFE,” 6ix9ine feat. Nicki Minaj

“Thunder,” LSD feat. Labyrinth, Sia & Diplo

 

“Talk Me Down,” Troye Sivan

“Shallow,” Lady Gaga feat. Bradley Cooper

“BEBE,” 6ix9ine feat. Anuel

“God,” Scarface feat. John Legend

 

“Africa,” Karl Wolf feat. Kulture

“Wetin We Gain,” Victor AD

“Girls Like You,” Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B

“Kpolonge,” Waje feat. Timaya

 

“Ijo Wakanda,” Orezi

“Payroll,” Xzibit & Yazz, Empire Soundtrack

“You’re So Beautiful (’90s Version),” Empire Soundtrack

“Love Long Time,” Serayah, Empire Soundtrack

 

“Watch Out,” Ezri Walker, Empire Soundtrack

“Dino Bus,” Badanamu

“Don’t Need Nobody,” Ellie Goulding

“Miracle Rain,” Frank Edwards

“Babalao,” Angelique Kidjo

 

“Club Controller,” Prince Kaybee & Lasoulmates feat. Zanda Zakura & TNS

“Need to Feel Loved,” Reflekt feat. Deline Bass

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS: Davido from Wap Reloaded, Janelle Monae from Adweek, 6lack from Rolling Stone, Desiigner from Hip Hop DX.

The Feet of Drogba

 

I was 13 when I fell in love with the whole of Didier Drogba. I had freshly become a football follower, a stubborn Chelsea fan. This was 2007, the age of newspapers and magazines, before browsing phones spread and newspaper stand crowds thinned and KickOff and SoccerStar made way for Goal.com. I was building stacks of football newspapers and magazines, but it was in a politics newspaper, in its sports spread, that I read the first football profile I really liked. It was titled “DD: Deadly Drogba,” and ran with a black-and-white photo of the striker and his braided hair, his left or right foot in pursuit of the ball in the air, his shorts drawn back to reveal his thighs, full.

I wish I could say that it began with that profile, that photo, but it began months before, in late 2006. My classmates had spent the previous year talking about and talking down on this team with loud, uncouth supporters who thought they could buy players and buy their way to trophies. Afterwards, by chance, I had watched a Chelsea match and seen Frank Lampard and began calling myself a Chelsea fan, and then, because my classmates kept talking about him and didn’t like him because he scored against Nigeria in that year’s African Nations Cup, I took faint interest in Drogba. It must have started then. Early 2007, maybe March, maybe April, I remember a senior whose nickname was Drogba coming into our class, standing at the door, arms raised, a wide smile on his face, saying, “Drogba na, Drogba won, Essien came second.” I didn’t like Senior Drogba; I really did not like Senior Drogba, but in that moment that he stood there, the joy in his body radiant, I was infected. Afterwards, I saw a newspaper report of his role in negotiating the end of the civil war in his home country of Cote d’Ivoire: that in October 2005, after Cote d’Ivoire had qualified for the 2006 World Cup, he picked a microphone in their dressing room and knelt down, surrounded by his teammates, and pleaded with both sides to lay down their arms. He was larger than life. That might have been when I fell in love with the first person I didn’t know personally.

Watching Drogba on the pitch, watching him move and run, him jump and nod, watching his control of the ball with his chest, his perfection of the “turn and shoot” technique, was a drug. The loudest thing I liked about him was that he was brutal, beastly. Before him, the only other footballer I’d seen instill such fear, exert such dominance of defenders, was Ricardo Kaka, in the two legs of his AC Milan’s Champions’ League semifinals against Manchester United: I’d watched Kaka’s killing laughing, fearing, laughing because it was Manchester United suffering and I didn’t like Manchester United, fearing because AC Milan might be meeting Chelsea if Chelsea won their own bout and I didn’t think Chelsea could survive them. It didn’t happen: Chelsea fell to Liverpool and I watched Drogba walk off the pitch annoyed. It might have been that annoyance, refined now, rechanneled now, that he wore on his body like grace when he tore into Liverpool the following season, 2007/2008, scoring twice at Stamford Bridge to take us into the final. But in that final, against Manchester United, we fell short. I didn’t watch the match: I was in SS1 then and didn’t fancy scaling our school fence at night to watch it in some bar surrounded by palm wine and the wining of men. But it was glorious, I felt its glory, because my classmates who watched it came back bedazzled. Drogba slapped Nemanja Vidic and was sent off. John Terry, captain, leader, legend, took the fifth penalty that would have been Drogba’s and slipped and the ball hit the post. Nicolas Anelka missed his and we lost. I felt sore for Drogba. The English media were on his case: would he leave Chelsea? To AC Milan? Real Madrid? Would he rejoin Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan. As the speculation grew, I worried: could I still remain a Chelsea fan if Drogba left? Because my love for Drogba was stronger than my love for Chelsea.

He stayed.

In 2009, Barcelona beat us in the Champions’ League semifinals and, because we were robbed, all those injury time penalty calls none of which were given, Drogba faced the camera and said, “This is a fucking disgrace,” and was banned by UEFA for some matches. I had begun to like Barcelona then, Lionel Messi in particular, but I was angry. WTF! In 2009/10, Drogba won the Premier League’s Golden Boot, his second, and among his 29 goals, I remember and enjoyed most his battering of Arsenal, that winless club whose fans, with their ability to faithfully endure in the absence of a confident future, I’d always been intrigued by. In 2010/2011, Fernando Torres came, and flopping followed, and Drogba stayed. In 2011/2012, he was back to his beastly best. Napoli fell in the Round of 16, and Barcelona in the semifinals, and Bayern Munich in the final. Drogba powered in the 88th minute equalizer and scored the decisive penalty. It was his crowning moment. It was my sating moment. Chelsea had finally won the Champions’ League.

After that year, my watching of football waned, partly because I had found a new interest, literature, and football, the first in a line of interests that would make way in my life for another, took a back seat.

There was my liking of Drogba’s suits, his shirts, jeans, the way he dressed. The way he spoke. His natural charisma. His exemplification of that quality I instantly like in people: drive. Drogba did not have the natural talent of many of his peers but he worked hard, becoming one of the most effective freekick-takers of his set. He was CAF African Footballer of the Year twice, for 2006 and 2009, and I think he should have further won for 2007 and 2010—the first going to Frederic Kanoute because, as reports rumoured then, CAF officials had called to congratulate Drogba but, due to commitments with the Cote d’Ivoire team, he sent his wife rather than show up to the ceremony; the second going to Samuel Eto’o.

Weeks ago, Didier Drogba retired from football. Watching him had been one of the joys of my life. There has been no other like him. There will be no other that I will love with the same enthrallment—his feet, his head. He’s bald now and I love it.

 

Image from Independent.co.uk.