Nneka My Fairy Tales

Nneka My Fairy Tales
"I've been a stranger in a distant land, I'll be coming home," proclaims Nneka on "Believe System," a tone-setting introduction to the diaspora-themed My Fairy Tales. Unlike her last album, 2012's Soul Is Heavy, hip-hop influences and guest spots are absent here. Leaving the bars and breaks behind, Nneka intones to afrobeat and roots reggae-inspired soundtracks throughout. It's an appropriately familiar landscape, albeit one that occasionally lacks variety.

Lyrically, Nneka is soul bearing, with a creeping tinge of exasperation and an ever-present longing for justice that has been the focus of her songwriting since her debut. "My Love, My Love" is the exception, where absolute contentment intertwines into a lover's rock ballad sans the need for "rules or regulations."

With eight songs and a reprise, My Fairy Tales is more short story than epic fable. Billed as a project that Nneka felt needed to be heard now, she chose to release it independently rather than wait on her label's schedule. "Pray For You" may be the reason for that sense of urgency; in it, an uptempo pop groove cleverly gives way to a fierce condemnation of Boko Haram's atrocities in Nigeria. Similarly, "Babylon" uses an infectious rhythm replete with fills and climactic organ riffs to call for an end to urban poverty.

But even in such a short offering there is room for improvement. "In Me" employs one too many quirky synth patches before being encumbered by an EDM crescendo that goes nowhere, an unfortunate way to conclude an otherwise decent body of work. This may not be the album that introduces Nneka to new listeners, but with an international fan base that allows for more world tours than the average artist, the former Nigerian Idol judge has breathing room to explore her influences without the weight of expectations. (Bushqueen Music)