Review: Johnny Drille focuses his lens on the individual with the EP Home

(Written by Adewale S. Adekunle)

Home is not just a physical building with a garden of sunflowers and lawn with green grass and backyard with withered trees that house birds tweeting every time of the day; Home is also in the things and people we find comfort and peace of mind i.e a lover or a hobby or an activity or probably a piece of collectables or materials that makes us feel happy and alive and that is the kind of home Johnny Drille is trying to paint in the mind of his listeners in his newly released body of work, Home.

Like most known Singer, Johnny Drille, born John Ighodaro, began learning music from the church and started by learning the guitar and the keyboard. He started out as a music producer and sound engineer but added singing to it in 2013 when he participated in the MTN organized competition known as Project Fame West Africa.

Although, he didn’t win the competition but he was able to build a dedicated fanbase and when he released his cover of singer Di’ja’s Awww, it went viral and caught the attention of Don Jazzy. His debut single, Wait For Me was nominated in the Best Alternative Song category at the 2016 Headies Awards and that sealed his entry into the Nigerian music industry.

In February 2017, Mavin Records officially announced the signing of Johnny Drille as one of the artistes on their roster and by the second half of 2018, Johnny Drille became a household name, as his duet with singer Simi, Halleluya, topped Nigerian music charts.

Six years after releasing his debut single as an artiste, and releasing more than 15 more singles, the Abuja-bred, Uniben graduate released his debut long play. The album he titled Before We Fall Asleep was nominated for the Best R&B Album at the 2022 Headies Awards. The 14-track body of work served as an introduction to the singer’s expansive ability to tell stories through each track and to curate a project that stays with his listeners even after they are done listening to it.

Last week, he announced the release of an EP which is consequently his debut extended play titled Home. The EP revealed another layer to Johnny Drille’s budding artistry as he delivers his distinctively sonorous vocals over 6-tracks with stellar production to deliver an ace R&B showcase with soft Highlife and Afrobeats twist.

Johnny Drille

Johnny Drille is right when he sings “when you lose your way, find your way back home…” as the opening remark of the eponymous track which opens the project. “Home” must have been inspired by the biblical story of the prodigal son, who longed to go home. “Will papa take me back/If I want to go home?” reveals that Johnny Drill must have done something he perceived unforgiving just like the prodigal son. The Cavemen bringing in the Highlife vibe are the highlight of the track, as they further sing that the home is “my happy place/where my heart lives.” Home is the tale of a long-gone, home-sick individual who longs to be home which they consider their nirvana.

On the previously released lead single, How Are You? (My Friend), Johnny Drille embodies what true friendships should be. He does not only reach out to his friend asking them about their wellbeing but he also motivates and reminds them that he will always be there when they need him. Everything about the track is perfect. The defined message of love, hope and care, the heartfelt lyrics, Johnny Drille’s soothing vocals and yes! Don Jazzy must be applauded for a stellar production of the track. How Are You? (My Friend) should be the new anthem for friendship; “I know sometimes e be like say/Nobody send you/That one na lie/I dey for you my friend.”

Only God Knows (Beautiful Mind) is one of the most relatable tracks on the project. The first verse tells the tales of a “happy girl on the outside” who has the “prettiest smile” but she isn’t really happy as “shhe is losing her damn mind/she cries every night.”

The second verse continues to tell of a “hard guy on the outside” who is also in a depressing state just like the beautiful girl. They both have friends who haven’t been reaching out to know how they have been doing lately.

This track unveils the human longing for attention, care and love from other people. It brings light to the dark side of most people who are the happiest in a room filled with people but go home every night to fight demons they don’t know how to conquer.

On the Afrobeats track Lover, Johnny Drille becomes a love-drunk lover who showers sweet words on his love interest. He calls her his sunshine and the only girl in his sight as every other girl is just a passer-by who doesn’t interest him as she does. He begs her to be his lover and he will love her forever. Phyno bringing in his indigenous style of rap on the track is something beautiful to listen to.

Jumoke is Johnny Drille geared towards mainstream as the sound is upbeat, groovy and “vibey”. It continues from where Lover stops. Johnny Drille continues his sweet talks and romantic gesture towards his lover, Jumoke who he thinks is best and perfect for him.

Johnny Drille’s Home art cover.

Johnny Drille saves the best for the last as the closing track, Journey of Our Lives, is the most compelling track on this project. Adekunle Gold doesn’t only understand his assignment as a guest artiste but also delivers his best. The two artistes smoothened vocals flow and their delivery is superb. Journey of Our Lives is a tale of undying love and sacrifice and both JD and AG are accurate when they opine that “we don’t need a reason/yeah, we gonna gonna love/cause we wanna wanna love.”

On Home, Johnny Drille becomes not just the harbinger of love he is known for, but also a beacon of hope and motivation for listeners who may be going through hard times. The 18 minutes and 14 seconds EP is not only personal but also excellently planned and delivered as it further unveils Johnny Drille’s ever-growing artistry, his age-long penmanship mystery, and meticulous beat selection knowledge that always births well-defined and thoughtful songs that are always sequentially arranged in such a way it births an almost complete story.

Also, Johnny Drille’s knowledge of perfect collaboration should be applauded, his meticulous choice of all the guest artistes on the project who do not only understand their assignment but further amplify the message and theme of each song should be commended.

Home shows Johnny Drille’s musical prowess and his deep understanding of not just music, but also the music terrain within which he operates. JD deserves every flower he is getting and I hope he keeps churning out sounds that resonate with his ever-growing fans.

Sam George Mac is a music journalist known for the reviews of several music albums and songs. He is a singer and songwriter of Afrobeats, Dancehall, Highlife and RnB with the stage name SGM — a graduate of Mass Communication from The West African Union University, Cotonou.

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