By Miina Kask
Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo is a Nigerian-American singer, poet, educator and an activist. Her name Iyeoka means "I want to be respected" and that is what she is all about. She began her musical career with the group The Rock by Funk Tribe and released her first solo full-lenght album Black and Blues in 2004. She has three studio albums, the second one was released in 2007 and is called Hum the Bass Line.
In 2010 Iyeoka released her album SAY YES, which was the first Evolving Album TM. The concept of this is that if you purchase an entire album, you will receive evolutions over time. These evolutions may be in the form of remixes, videos, artwork, unreleased tracks etc. SAY YES Evolved was released in 2014. Iyeoka also has a live album.
Her music is influenced by R&B, hip hop, pop, jazz, soul, her cultural backround and more. All her songs have a meaning and a message, which is often about love, equality, struggles and life in general. If you have heard her sing once or twice, then her voice is quite recognisable. It can be smoothing and soft as well as very strong and powerful. She loves to add different humming to her songs and make sounds with her voice which add to the theme of the song.
The first song of the album is Broken Hearts Anthem (Walk Away). Although the song is about someone leaving, it is not a sad sobbing, but much more a happy song with good beat. The song doesn't have long lyrics it is more about the music. Just listen to it and let it lift your mood. It is a good kick-start to the album.
The Yellow Brick Road was a song i didn't like at all at first. But even then the 'bam bamberam' was stuck in my head. Maybe that is why I didn't like it. I just thought it was hectic and disturbing. However, the more I listen to it, the better it gets. Not enough to be my favourite, but still, better. And the ultimate 'we can do it' message of course - so possible. This one of the messages Iyeoka tries to spread - we can all do something to change the world for the better.
It also the theme song of a TV-series Fairly Legal.
Although still not a slow song, Breakdown Mode is different from the previous two. It is calmer and the tone of the song has changed. I love her voice in this one, it feels lush. The song is a about a love, a situation that repeats itself over and over again, but she can't step out of it and take control. If not the love part, then the feel of being stuck on a merry-go-round might be familiar for a lot of people. At least for me it is. You keep spinning and if you want to make a change, you can't - always ending up in the same place in life repeating your mistakes.
I'm sorry I couldn't find the original one to upload here, I wanted to. But if anyone wishes, you can look it up on Youtube. I would recommend it. The video is not much but I like her in it. This is the first song I heard from Iyeoka and this is why I started listening to her music. This is by far her most popular song. It has over 37 million hits on Youtube.
I have never paid much attention to the lyrics on this one, some of them have just secretly snuck into my head. Honestly, I often don't care as much about the lyrics, the music is more important to me. Music makes you feel and creates the tone of the piece. Simply Falling's melody and music and the sound all together is perfect. This is also different from her other songs. Much more smoothing and floates you in the air somewhere. The beginning of the song just hooks you, it starts with her humming 'mmmmm'.
The song is about love. The way she is hooked on that someone, I am hooked on this song. She can't help but to simply just fall for him. I like the way she sings about love. It is something important for her and her voice reflects feelings she has. Rather than just singing 'oh baby, you hurt me, I love you, blablabla'. Not that all these songs are bad, they are usual pop song stuck in your head and they are popular for a reason, but Simply Falling is much more for the soul.
Say Yes, the seventh song on the album and also the name of the album. I feel like Iyeoka knows how to positively spread whatever message. The song is about love and finding our place in life.
I feel like it is suitable for a romantic film - the scene where the couple have had their differences and and are now separately. One of them in their home, drinking tea and watching the moon and the other one walking in the rain or something. So it's a bit too sentimental for me. Specially the melody makes it even more so.
However I do have to say I agree with the message - saying yes to more to good things and not being afraid to say yes. Usually it's more like 'I don't know... I can't... I don't have the time'. It sounds tacky because it is, but it's also true.
Testify is much better without the video. I feel like the video is a bit random, boring and cheap. The song however is excellent for random dancing around the room to let all out. Gives you a feeling of carelessness: 'I don't care about anything but I am happy and awesome'. I guess in that sense the video does go with the song - people randomly dancing, but the quality is just not there.
Additionally, I feel like the rap part doesn't add anything to the song. It's there, it's okay, but that is it. Maybe it meant to be a small alternation because the song is quite the same throughout.
Happily Ever After has a much sadder theme from start to finish than the previous ones. The song carries you like a smooth river as you are floating on a giant Nymphaea leaf, if that was possible. It gets more powerful towards the end. The best parts of it are when she is simply singing 'dai-dai-dai' between the verses. Her voice like this, most effectively passes on the feelings she is feeling.
I Travel Home. This is where the poet in Iyeoka comes out. Nothing to analyse in this. Just listen to it.
Baba. The last song on the album. I very much enjoy this one. It creates a wholeness with the previous poem. Here her ethnicity really shows and both give you the feel of Africa. It is mystical and thrilling, calm and sad and reminds you of your own roots. All of that with just a few words.
It is the perfect ending to an album. As the album is called Say Yes Evolved, then I feel like this is exactly what it has done, it has evolved and reached a new level in the end. The album had a kick-start, then went on to being more calm and easy and ended with something deeper.
A lot of Iyeoka's songs don't have videos and they don't need them necessarily either, but watching her perfom can be hypnotising. Every time she performs, she is filled with enjoyment, hope and a twinkle in her eyes. To me she is an artist who believes in herself and others. She has a very powerful voice that can go from strong, loud, angry to soft and quiet very quikly. I would recommend looking up her TEDx videos if anyone had a minute or few and an interest of watching something different.