Aṣa, 'Believer': Song You Need to Know - Rolling Stone
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Let Aṣa’s Sweet Strength Make You a ‘Believer’

The noteworthy singer’s house-influenced love song is one of several beauties on her fifth and newest album

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Lakin Ogunbanwo*

Aṣa — the Nigerian-French singer-songwriter whose award-winning, self-titled debut album arrived 15 years ago — has left a trail of popular contemporary successors in her wake. Much to those artists’ excitement, she built relationships with a handful of them after traveling from Paris to Lagos to ride out the pandemic in early 2020.

Aṣa’s latest album, V, bears the fruit of those new friendships formed over meals and drinks. One guest is Afrobeats star Wizkid, who, precisely seven years before announcing their recent collaboration, tweeted his desperate desire to work with Aṣa. Another is Amaarae, the eclectic Ghanaian-American Afro-fusionist who dutifully tweeted, “For the longest time Aṣa was the benchmark for me for making it as an artist that made alternative African music.” Nigerian highlife duo the Cavemen, also featured on V, tweeted that their union with Aṣa was a dream realized. 

These collaborations are smooth and inspiring, with Aṣa winding her flexible writing and gentle voice around the production style and attitude of each act accompanying her, but it is her solo performances that make clear why she is uniquely influential. It’s challenging to pick a single standout from this 10-song-tight project full of satisfying African soul, as spirited and peaceful as the waterfronts Aṣa wrote it beside.

For the sake of example, take “Believer,” a house track with diasporic percussion that finds a stirring balance between serenity and danceability. Aṣa’s tender singing floats above the pounds, claps, and synths, and tangoes with keys as she convinces a doubtful lover of her romantic tenacity. “If you tell me something ridiculous like ‘I don’t deserve your love,’ I still will follow,” she sighs. Aṣa, which means “hawk” in Yoruba, her mother tongue, is a master at striking a dovish tone with ambitious intentions. As assertive as she is faithful, on “Believer,” she insists that she is to be followed, too. And across African music, she has been. 

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

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