Stormzy, Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy on a song, while on top of the charts and their game, is arguably the dopest line up of artistes on a collaboration this year and holds a spot for the decade. And that’s the most striking thing about the project!
Let the facts show.
“Vossi Bop” by Stormzy released in April this year, debuted at number one upon its entry on the UK Singles Chart and is his first number one solo single.
Ed Sheeran has had number one albums… since forever, including his fourth studio album, No.6 Collaborations Project released in July this year, spawning the singles “I Don’t Care” with Justin Bieber and “Antisocial” with Travis Scott.
King Burna; the “African Giant” has had a stellar music year on the charts as well and worldwide, with a Grammy nominated “Best World Music Album” to show for it.
And so, the term “3 Kings” (as depicted in the visuals), aptly describes the Powermove.
A good question though? Did the 3 Kings get to Own It on the track? Considering the different genres of music, they play in: Grime, Pop and R&B, Afrobeats and Dancehall.
Here’s a breakdown of the track: “Own It”.
Note: To fully immerse yourself in this read, you should have the track cued and your earphones plugged in, to journey through this song analysis.
You can find the lyrics here.
Now, press play.
The track begins with panned vocal chops that has the crowd cheering (from 0:01 – 0:09) as a build-up, to create a sense of anticipation. There’s a percussion bell (at 0:07) (you didn’t know you needed), and then the track slams right into a dancehall beat.
Stormzy starts off singing the chorus [in auto-tune] and goes on to rap (Verse 1) about the allure of a girl at a party, that instantaneously makes him want to become a part of her life. He gets some help from Burna Boy on his flow, as it transitions smoothly into Burna’s interjectory but complimentary 8-second hook in Nigerian pidgin, that further interprets his allure. Reemphasized in the lines: “I know no wetin you dey do me, Wey just dey scatter my brain.”
Stormzy returns (at 1:15) for a reassuring 8-second wrap up for his 8-bar verse, which makes another smooth transition into the chorus.
The chorus is an 8-bar complimentary blend of the vocals of the 3 artistes that distinctively retains the amazing vocals of each artiste. Projecting Stormzy’s low pitch, in contrast to Burna and Ed’s higher pitches.
At the last stretch of the chorus, Burna’s vocals starts building up in the background. Heralding his arrival, to conclusively belt out “Oluwa Burna ti de” (which translates to “Burna has arrived” in Yoruba language) on the final note of the chorus, in anticipation of this verse.
Plot twist: Ed Sheeran’s verse comes in for Verse 2 instead of Burna’s that you’ve been tricked to believe. This is one of those moments where the street slang “Mad oo” is most applicable.
Ed Sheeran goes on to express his affection for his lover on a 16-bar verse, including levels of intimacy and attraction they share and enjoy, in a quintessential Ed Sheeran way: “Kissing on the Cheek”, “Reaching out my palm for you to put your hand” and wraps up the verse (at 2:36) talmbout her “Glow”. Yesss Ladies! This is an interesting contrast to Stormzy’s who expresses his “Thug Loving”.
Another contrast is expressed in the respective opening lines for their verses: “Lighters Up” and “Lights Down”.
The chorus features again, the complimentary blend of the 3 vocals but projecting Ed’s vocals and his ad libs, to co-Own It with Burna’s (ad libs) in rounding off the chorus. The vocals go off (at 3:14) to retain the beat, assuming the feel of the song ending in fade as the tempo drops but returns with bass 808 ad libs and vocal chops effect (at 3:23), to give the track a solid finish.
On the intro
The beginning of the song (featuring the panned vocal chops and crowd cheering), is that song entry that is always going to be the highlight of performances or in street parlance, “slap the hardest” at concerts. Whether strategically fitting in between the lineup of song arrangements, or as a reawakening for the crowd.
A predictable down side to a collaboration such as this however, will be the unavailability of the 3 acts at the same time to perform the song.
The choice of dancehall
“Own It”, is that song that makes you just want to tek control and Own It on the dancefloor. The choice of the genre, appears to be a comfortable genre for the artistes and background, considering the popularity of dancehall in the UK, which has at some point been/is home to the 3 artistes and a form of influence on their sound.
Ed reprises himself!
Ed Sheeran reprises himself with his delivery, on his versatility as an artiste and why his dancehall influenced tracks such as “I Don’t Care” and “Shape of You” are not flukes.
Burna shows why Nigerian pidgin works magic on tracks
Just like our Jollof rice, Burna Boy’s 8-second Nigerian pidgin (language) hook, introduces the much needed spin and translation of Stormzy’s 8-bar verse, that appeals to Nigerian and Afrobeats-loving audience.
Burna and Ed need a song together
The beautiful blend of Burna’s and Ed Sheeran’s voices, most especially in the second chorus is a clear indicator that we desperately need that Burna boy and Ed Sheeran track, we never thought we needed.
Elements of Surprises
The absence of introductions such as signature aliases at the beginning of the track, leaves room for surprises for the playout, that includes the ultimate unpredictable moment of the song with Ed and Burna on verse 2. Just when you think you’ve got the playout figured out.
Timing is great
The track length of 3:36, does justice to the input of the 3 acts.
They Owned It… Together
There’s no sense of anybody trying to outshine or outdo the other but instead, the complimentary effort of 3 creatives.
“Own It” is a single off Stormzy’s upcoming album: “Heavy Is the Head“, scheduled to be released on 13 December 2019.