It’s not surprising that the lead single from Burna Boy’s seventh album was called Sittin’ on Top of the World. Earlier this summer, the Nigerian artist also known as Damini Ogulu became the first African musician to sell out stadiums in the UK and US, performing to huge crowds at the London Stadium and Citi Field in New York. As yet another stadium appearance, he also sang before kick-off at the Champions League Final in Istanbul.
His UK connections stretch way back. He was an unlikely media student at the University of Sussex and Oxford Brookes University in the late 2000s, and on the song Glory on last year’s album Love, Damini, he revealed that he had also spent time in HM Prison Chelmsford.
British guests have been on his albums since Outside in 2018, which featured Lily Allen, J Hus and Mabel, and he’s since shared song space with Chris Martin, Stormzy, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. This time Dave’s back for another collaboration, on the nimble pop-soul of Cheat on Me, but he’s also scored a couple of major Americans in the shape of rappers 21 Savage and J Cole.
Outside music, he pays tribute to the late Louis Vuitton fashion designer Virgil Abloh, including a recording of Abloh’s voice in the middle of the album and singing about him at the start of Big 7: “First of all, rest in peace Virgil Abloh/Don’t spill no drink on my clothes when I’m Louis V drippin’.” The luxurious theme continues: “I really, really spent a milli’ on just two Richard Milles/And I wear ‘em willy-nilly through the city,” is how he refers to his watch collection. He’s had more political songs in the past. Now he wants you to gaze on his success in awe.
The title track’s relaxed, summery feel is a strong contrast to the giant told-you-so of the lyrics: “I told them I’m the master/They told me I wouldn’t prosper.” At the other end of the album, on Thanks, he’s still bitter: “Is this the motherf***in’ thanks I get/For making my people proud every chance I get?”
In between, he flaunts his talent and wealth over some great pop melodies. Normal’s mix of massed vocals, outsized bassline and kung fu samples is irresistable. Giza is the most danceable song, its digitised voices and relentless beats making it another standout. It feels like he has nothing left to prove as he continues with his world-conquering year.