23 September 2023

"How Did Love Find Me" by Asa (2014)

The cover art to 2014's Bed of Stone,
which is Asa's third-studio album.

Have you ever heard a song or piece of music that spoke directly to you, one that seemed to understand your deepest feelings and emotions, even when words couldn't express them?  That's the power of Aṣa.  Her art speaks to the human experience in a way that transcends culture and language.  Asa's songs have a universal appeal and the power to move and inspire listeners around the world.

Though she was born in Paris, Asa grew up in her parents' homeland of Nigeria, and her music reflects the influence of both localities.  I got to know about Asa during a visit to my cousin's hostel, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria in 2015.  He had her whole album and would play the tracks one-by-one, 'til I even had some lyrics in my head. I fell in love and downloaded every one of her songs to date, and I'm still downloading them.  Asa's music explores themes of love, loss and self-discovery, and her unique blend of soul, pop and folk has earned her critical acclaim and a loyal following.

Asa has acknowledged that her musical style
is influenced by her international background.

There's just something about her style that relates to the soul.  Maybe it's the blend of cultures.  I don't understand the Yoruba language, but trust me when I tell you that I can sing every one of her Yoruba songs, word-for-word.  There's no doubt that her sound is unique, and for fans like me, it's something we can't get enough of.  With her soothing voice and heartfelt lyrics, she's a true maestro when it comes to connecting with listeners.


How Did Love Find Me is a musical masterpiece - from Asa's third studio album, Bed of Stone (2014) - that delves into the complexities of love and related introspection.  Her lyrics are like puzzle pieces that gradually unveil to form a beautiful picture of vulnerability and the search for love.

As you listen to How Did Love Find Me, you'll notice how the melody mirrors the ebb and flow of our own emotions.  It starts gently - like the tentative steps we take in romance - and then builds into a crescendo of feelings.  Asa's voice is the guide on this emotional rollercoaster, taking us through the highs and lows of love's journey.

Can you do this for me,

whisper a prayer?

Something's happening.

I'm so scared.

What I waited so long for is finally here.

Why does it feel so wrong?

Why the tears?

I always gave love,

never thought I deserve

to be the one to get love.

Oh no

One of the song's most profound elements is its vulnerability.  Asa doesn't sugarcoat the uncertainties and fears that come with opening your heart to someone.  She acknowledges the doubts and insecurities that often accompany this profound experience.  It's a reminder that we're all human, and it's okay to feel susceptible.

Asa is not just a singer; she's a storyteller.  With How Did Love Find Me, she weaves a narrative that feels deeply personal yet universally relatable.  It's like listening to a friend pour out their heart, and you can't help but nod in agreement, because you've been there yourself.  And as we listen to her melodic narrative and self-examining lyrics, one can't help but wonder, "how did love find me?"  It's a question we all grapple with, and her music helps us find solace in the search.

This track also reminds me that love can be unexpected and that it often finds us when we least expect it.  It also highlights love's power to change us and make us see the world in a new light, and as someone who has experienced love and also loved, I connected well with this track.  How Did Love Find Me celebrates the mystery and magic of true romance, which can be overwhelming. 

And if you enjoyed this song, you might also appreciate some of Asa's other works, such as 2007's Jailer, Fire on the Mountain and Bibanke, which are similar in style and emotion.

18 September 2023

"Better Day (Ghetto Girl)" by 702 (2003)

The cover art to Star (2003), 702's third and presumably final studio album.

It felt bug earlier tonight reading that Irish Grinstead, homegirl from 702 (who's standing in the middle of the above pic), passed away at the age of 43, because I've actually been listening to a lot of 702 lately.  I won't go as far as to say that I was fan of this group during their heyday.  But some years later I came across the "CN Remix" of 50 Cent's In Da Club, which is interlaced with a track 702 dropped titled No Way (2003), and it instantly became like my favorite Fiddy song, largely due to the girls' vocals:

So that prompted me to later seek out the original version of No Way, which I ended up enjoying even more than that remix:

One thing I'll give to 702 is they have the sweetest voices of any R&B act that I can readily think of.  The problem, in my opinion after listening to more of their songs, was with their production.  The lead singer, Kameelah Williams, has a really nice voice but not a lot of vocal range.  So their songs tend to sound better at times when Irish and her sister, LeMisha Grinstead, are backing Kameelah up.

That's the strategy that their production team should have utilized throughout most of their tracks, like they did on No Way.  But instead, they seemingly relied more on the traditional formula of letting the lead singer go it alone in the verses, with the backup singers only really representing in the chorus, which sometimes worked for 702 and sometimes didn't.  But that said, these days whenever I feel like listening to music with a girlish sound this is the act I gravitate towards since, as stated earlier, they were really good at harmonizing while sounding distinctly female.

Also the latter part of their album Star, beginning with track #11 No Way and concluding with #15 Jealousy, is actually a pretty good listen.  And that's where I found this hidden gem, which is called Better Day (Ghetto Girl):

Usually, I'm not a big fan of these smile-in-the-ghetto type of songs.  I feel that the message should rather be more along the lines of 'get out of the ghetto'.   But the lyrics do sorta conclude that way, with the final chorus noting that the "little ghetto child", the one who has gone through all types of depression and BS (as most clearly illustrated in the second verse), did successfully 'turn her life around'.  And I understand the overall value of songs like these, as positivity thinking tends to be advantageous no matter what type of setting you find yourself in, or something to that effect.  And also, we can all use an infusion of faith from time to time.

This track follows that same traditional music-group formula mentioned above, the type that I argued doesn't always fit 702's strengths.  But what really makes this track exceptional, outside of its message (as opposed to 702's usual romantic fare), is its instrumental.  And here's something really interesting - Better Day was co-produced by Faith Evans, aka the widow of Biggie Smalls.  The other producer is a New Yorker by the name of Buckwild, who's a long-standing member of the Diggin' in the Crates Crew alongside the likes of Fat Joe and Lord Finesse.


Star is actually 702's most recent studio album (out of three in total), also presumably being their last.  So these days, the only time you hear about 702 is on gossip sites or when something like what transpired today happens.  It was both sad and shocking reading about the death of homegirl.  But maybe her passing will bring about a renewed interest in 702, an act that never really achieved monumental chart success but was an intrinsic part of the 1990s' R&B scene nonetheless.