The first WizKid record to get a push in the States looks all right up close; beat is cool, anyway. Viewed from afar it washes into gray. Much as on “One Dance,” WizKid barely appears on the song. Even before French’s deflating “HAHNNN” adlib sends you to the skip button like Pavlov’s dog, the lineup on the box suggests an effort to bury the main artist. And there are too many singers—WizKid+Chris Brown AND Trey Songz? Of course, a great song would make this all irrelevant, but its not even an original concept. Here’s hoping it’s a strategic play for fanbase exposure, because the sound WizKid has been working with is much more exciting than this. And it’s not a sound that needs watering down; it’s capital-p Pop music on its own.
WizKid’s “Like This,” though, is something special. The swirling, high-thread-count production feels extravagant. American pop—extraordinarily stripped down in contrast, even miserly—would never risk the bottom line with something so ornamental. Give us a 140-character hook and keep it simple, stupid. Not to chase “complexity” off the cliff of fetishization—please, no Intelligent Afropop Music—but something about the lavish texture suggests a generosity of spirit alien to these shores ca. 2016. Maybe he’s born with it; maybe it’s Nigeria’s oil wealth. Either way, this is where Afropop’s magic is: not where WizKid reaches us, but where we reach to him.