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Article: Olu Maintain & the Business of Vanity

By DIA ZAMANI

One only has to watch his latest videos for ‘Olu in Brasil’ and the lazily-spelt Ennuff Effizzi – showcasing stupendous wealth and packed full with an array of exquisite and seductive beauties so Jezebel-esque Ahab’s late wife would gladly relinquish her biological name – to come to the realization that in Olu Maintain, vanity has found premium real estate.

Tke Ennuff Effizi for example. Asides the aforementioned, a million drinks, a fleet of cars – each one sparkling so bright your screen automatically blinks to adjust- and some fancy motorbikes all feature in what has been labelled ‘the most expensive African music video’ with an estimated budget of a million dollars. True to type, the crooner is sipping expensive wine, in a Jacuzzi ensconced within a private jet and literally surrounded by the good things of life; only he isn’t crooning this time.

First and foremost, let’s establish the fact that it is eye candy. Top-notch stuff. But over time, as the quality of the Yahoozee crooner’s videos have been on an increase, continuing to defy industry standards, with an inversely proportional relationship to the quality of the actual song itself. Truth be told, Maintain has never been spectacularly talented from his days as a member of the duo, Maintain who had the hits Malaria and Catch Cold. This does not mean he is without any and his mind-blowing verse on eLDee’s Big Boy where he held his own alongside the Trybe Records man, Banky W and oLaDele is testament to his ability.

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However, old things have passed away and the mighty have fallen in battle. It is shameful that rather than actually sing, Olu is recanting Nigerian states for the most of one verse; has he now found a new calling as a geography teacher? Or has he morphed into a talking map? Music has become his side hustle as he makes mega bucks from an occupation that no one on the outside of his camp can pinpoint, to a degree of certainty. That is the business of the EFCC, not ordinary folk like us who have enough problems already.

More like a documentary than a real video, one can’t fathom what he really is on about from beginning to finish. His history of grabbing attention almost suffocatingly with great videos is not new knowledge but if this is signaling his foray into Hugh Hefner’s world, it would be fair enough for him to at least warn the public. Effizi Mansion or Nawti Mansion would not be hard for him to pull off and make some cool cash.

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Rather than spend so much on that video, a frugal contemporary would squeeze out an album and maybe two good budget videos with Patrick Elis or Aje Films to boot and promote them well. Scores of artistes from Sean Tizzle.

One feels the need to school him on the business of music videos. Very few Nigerian artistes realize what product placement is and how it can either save them a lot of money or foster partnerships that could bring about endorsement deals. Banky W’s Jasi video comes to mind and the business acumen of the EME boss must be applauded for using Ciroc vodka bottles as props in his videos. While one cannot say for sure if the brand paid for shooting and editing the video, they must have contributed financially, especially as he has not yet signed an endorsement deal with them. If Olu in this case, had been wise enough to approach Arik Air, Dana Air (especially as the latter needs some public goodwill at the moment) or any of the private jet hire operators available in the country, he and his team would’ve accomplished three things. One, the company involved, would’ve offset a large part of his bill; then his corporate profile and value would have gotten a facelift and more importantly, there would still be a high-grade video to satisfy his ego and the unsuspecting public who lap up almost anything.

Now onto the song, which has no recognizable hook. For a track that has little commercial appeal and about no relevance in the grand scheme of things in the entertainment industry, quick damage control has to be done. The first thought that comes to mind is an all-star remix to his greatest hit of all times, Yahoozee – with the usual suspects Olamide, Wizkid, Burna Boy and er, maybe Tuface. It would be a little too late, but really who would care so long as it is danceable? The distraction would be sensational, social media would go haywire and the ultimate winner would still be Olu Maintain.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, the funds are his and he can do whatsoever he likes. It is pertinent however, to state here that his art, as exemplified by this video is for public consumption and if it assaults our eyes, it would be irrational to continue suffering and smiling. Criticism helps an artiste better his art and if art can no longer be appraised or evaluated because a lot of money has been spent in financing its production, of what use is it then?

One last question: will Olu Maintain even get to read this? Will he get to hear the real critics talk above the sound of his ego doing the foxtrot with vanity, to the adulation of fans lapping up anything he does like thirsty dogs at the bank of a stream? Je ne sais pas.

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