Music
Photo by Camilo Fuentealba for OkayAfrica

Yemi Alade’s Journey to Becoming a ‘Woman of Steel’

With a bold new album, record-breaking musical feats and two features on Beyoncé's "The Lion King: The Gift," Yemi Alade is claiming her spot in a growing Nigerian music scene with full force.

Yemi Alade's "Johnny" was never even meant to see the light of day. "Someone leaked the song," she recalls with a smile. "And the leaked song saved my life."

It went on to become her breakout hit, catapulting her to African musical fame. With its catchy hook and cheeky lyrics about tracking down a flaky lover, the song caught on easily as a fun track that light-heartedly spoke from the ladies' point of view—an answer to all the songs that already did so from a man's perspective, namely Wizkid's "Caro." Its Clarence Peters-directed music video showcased her personality and knack for theatrical performance took the hype even further. It went on to break YouTube records (with 107 million views and counting), and is still the most watched music video by a Nigerian woman artist.

That was 2014—a time in the African pop scene, when artists who are today considered afropop royalty were still striving to make names for themselves in an ever-changing musical landscape. With its fiery production and easy-to-sing-along-to hook "Johnny" quickly became a party staple, making Alade's name one prominently associated with the growing scene. In 2019, African pop music is in a different phase, more visible than ever before, yet still on the cusp of crossover success. Through this process, Alade's name has remained a constant, and unlike the success of "Johnny"—this is by no accident.

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