With the caliber of the songs on his Born for Greatness album, it is evident that Buju Banton has cemented himself as one of Jamaica’s greatest songwriters ever. The album, also brilliantly produced, can be seen as a ‘stitch in time’, as much of the new music coming out of Jamaica has been criticized for its superficiality.
Even though the album has tinges of R&B alongside Reggae and Dancehall, it is still a respite for lovers of Jamaican music, and should serve as a masterclass for upcoming acts on how to pen and produce songs that will ‘pass Jamaica’s three international airports’. In other words, songs with global appeal.
Over 17 tracks, the Gargamel showcases his extensive vocabulary, the strength of his songwriting, and his mastery of literary devices. The album calls attention to Banton’s ‘gift of gab’ and his ability to express himself musically and, in so doing, arouse his listener’s emotions.
In terms of the individual songs, several tracks are sensual and sweet, which will be well appreciated by the ladies, many of whom have complained about being inundated with a barrage of songs released by artists, ranging from insulting to misogynistic.
Sweeter, a subtle song about make-up sex, will undoubtedly be seen by many Buju fans, as good lovemaking music. Buju, telling his lover to “come with me” to find resolve to their conflict, then crooning the hook: “After the fight, love shall be sweeter tonight,” is indeed alluring.
Plans is another ‘sweet one’ for the ladies. He switches between singing and deejaying, going high pitch to low pitch as he asks his lover what her plans are for the night, and makes his suggestions about what they could be doing wrapped up in each other’s arms. The song is pure pleasure.
In Walked Out, Buju yearns for a lost love whose affections he still craves, while Body Touching, featuring Victoria Monét, caresses the ears, oozing romance in the lyrics. This song can make perfect sync music; ideal for a soundtrack for a romantic movie set in the tropics, and makes for dreamy Caribbean dinner music.
As he has done before on previous albums, and as many Dancehall songwriters tend to do, Buju centered much of the album’s tracks on some of his personal experiences, making them highly relatable to listeners.
Case in point is the already-released title track, an earworm that showcases Buju’s robust songwriting acumen, strong command of the English language, and poetic competence. The hook: “I don’t follow your rules/I guess I’m lawless/Still making big moves regardless/Its above your pay grade so let it go/We comin in thousands and ten-fold”, sounds almost biblical, and the background vocals and clapping sounds add zest to this splendid work of art.
Good songs must have great melodies, chords, and lyrics, and should evoke a particular reaction or conjure a specific emotion, which is evident throughout the album. But, it is Buju’s elocution that compels the listener to listen to each song to the end, and not skip. His enunciation is exceptional, but, this his fans already know.
Despite this, there are two songs, though, which very strangely appear to end abruptly: Yard and Outta Road. In the same vein, We find a Way has the listener waiting for the next verse, which never comes. But, Buju is excused for these gaffes as, again, the songwriting and the execution remain solid.
As is the case with the Gargamel, no two songs sound the same. The themes are varied. It is music for the soul; healing music, and this comes in the gospel-like Let My People Go, where he demands world “tyrants” to release the people, predicting that if they do not comply, there will be riots, rooting and raving, and ravage. It is also highlighted in Trial By Fire, where he declares that he’s an unconquerable warrior placed to protect the people, and asks “who am I to question the grand design”.
The other songs on the album are Coconut Wata (SIP), Nuff Love for You, On My Microphone, Feel A Way with Stephen Marley and Ageless Time, Turn Up Tonight, Life Choices.
The album reassures lovers of Jamaican music that Reggae and Dancehall is alive and kicking, and that the veterans can be the beacons that take the mantle and redeem the music, which has been under decay. It also demonstrates that the Stamina Daddy, with 31 years in Dancehall, having heeded the advice Marcia Griffiths gave him as a teenager, to ensure he makes music that will last for generations to come, remains an unstoppable force in Jamaican music.