Asa AsaBeautiful Imperfection
Asa is called Bukola and sometimes she sings in Yoruba, her mother tongue, because even though she lives most of the year in Paris, she was born in Lagos (Nigeria) and that is where she returns to again and again to disorganise her universe (a universe that the cold, rational Parisian atmosphere tends to tame and sterilise). Asa was born in Lagos (in the sense that her musical vocation was born, when she was barely five years old) and it is Lagos that the singer (and player of various instruments) needs, in order to grow (musically speaking). It was there that her first album, the self-titled “Asa” was created, which saw the light in 2008 (also on Naïve), full of raw and raging African-inspired soul with Jamaican devotion (Asa adores Bob Marley above all else), a formula that has shifted towards (reggae) pop (soul) in this, her second attempt, the more personal and mature “Beautiful Imperfection”.
And what is “Beautiful Imperfection?” Well, to start with, it’s a contagious album. And what does it spread? Good vibes. In industrial amounts. It’s enough to listen once to the first cut, the scandalously perfect “Why Can’t We” (pay attention to the chorus, we won’t be able to get it out of our heads for ages), to keep us smiling for a good while (approximately the same amount of time we’ll be continually humming it). But there is more. There are songs like “Dreamer Girl”, which submerge you directly into the mind of a little girl who grew up without any friend other than music, and who dreamed all the time (this is, along with “Questions”, the most melancholy cut on the album), and later there are songs like “Be My Man”, the brilliant first single, which brings the 60s soul formula up to date, with unexpected twists and trumpets. There are also exquisitely elegant songs (the very Nina Simone “The Way I Feel”), but if we’re talking about exquisiteness, we must not forget to point in the direction of Benjamin Constant, who is responsible for the album’s production; it shines when it needs to shine ( “Bimpé”) and darkens when it needs to darken: as Asa sings in “Maybe”: “Maybe the sun will rise, maybe the stars will shine, maybe, this world is full of pain.”
There are African rhythms ( “Ok, Ok”) and trips in a van (if it’s a question of getting festive and hitting the road, nobody’s like Asa: “Broda Olé” is one of the indispensable cuts for understanding her music, sung as well in Yoruba, a language that is as musical as any other), but there are also storms ( “Baby Gone”, and its “I wish I could have been more for you”) and loss ( “Preacher Man” or “the effort to find yourself again in a world that is willing to let you lose yourself forever”). In Asa’s universe, sometimes it rains, and sometimes the sun shines. She decides. She presses the button. And she constructs balanced sound buildings that are like trees you can climb to find shelter. There is always shelter. After all, this is what Asa aspires to: to make her music your best friend. And at this rate, she’ll manage it.