Seven years ago, Savage introduced herself to Nigerians as a recording artist with her debut hit single, ‘Kelekele Love.’ Savage is beautiful, undeniably talented, and Kele Kele love was about a woman who was unwilling to put up with an unhealthy so-called “love” relationship. She knew her value and was unapologetic about it. Savage’s accompanying image to match her narrative was sexy but not overtly in the Kele Kele love video published in 2011. So, it was no surprise Nigerians fell in love with her. In fact, there were many comparisons to Rihanna, but only from the standpoint that her video sponsored by her manager Tunji Balogun aka T-Billz seemed to mimic certain elements of Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ video.
Nevertheless, to ensure Nigerians understood she was a true representative of traditional Nigerian values, Savage went on media rounds and represented herself as a conservative Christian with aspirations to become a “missionary worker” after retiring from music. Yes, you read right, a missionary worker.
That introduction and an attempt to fit into a Nigerian narrative that would help her sell her records created a brand identity crisis that, in my view, would and did plague her career until now.
Indeed, in many interviews post her kelekele video, Savage explained her targeted audience were Nigerian women, and she was interested in being a role model and empowering them. But, many seemed unimpressed. Savage, instead, was attracting a male fan base in droves with her increasingly overt sexual tones (by Nigerian standards), while the women criticized her seeming lax moral standards.
In July 2013, when Savage finally debuted her freshman album, ‘Once Upon a Time,’ she was faced with defining her brand identity, yet again. In response to allegations that she was now becoming a “sex symbol,” Savage vehemently denied these allegations and again focused on presenting a wholesome image to cater to her expressed target audience. By November 2013, Savage married her manager in a traditional wedding and followed up with a white wedding in 2014.
Her marriage seemed to up the ante on the expectations of Nigerians on how their entertainment princess ought to behave.In 2014, while still under the management of T-Billz, Savage made another attempt at expressing a bold sexual identity in a music video titled “Wanted.” Wanted saw Savage dressed in a see-through jumpsuit and gyrating on the floor. In response, the majority of her Nigerian female fans lashed out at her. They reminded her that she was a “married” woman, and an African woman for that matter and found the video offensive. The video was probably one of the most controversial if not the controversial music video of 2014. Her husband was also accused of pimping her instead of getting a real job.
Savage’s insistence on bringing a dual identity of a sultry songstress and a future missionary worker was causing confusion, judgment, backlash, and a music identity crisis that saw Savage constantly having to apologize for her wardrobe choices, vision, direction and brand identity, among other things. She needed to be clear about her voice, and align her brand visuals with her voice.
For Savage, the opportunity to do just that came in the form of an incredible deterioration of her relationship with T-Billz, witnessed by the world. While it thankfully lacked the physical abuse in the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence situation, it nevertheless was loaded with very toxic factors that Savage made known in a tell-all video, in response to crazy rants by T-Billz accusing her of being an industry whore who had slept with some of Nigeria’s famed musicians. While Savage still presented as a dutiful Nigerian wife trying to do everything right but stuck with an irrational, paranoid man, that complete breakdown of her marriage seemed to finally free her from the clutches of society’s expectation of her as a “married” woman.
For one, she made clear she was going the divorce route. In addition, she followed up with a music video, ‘Bad’ that re-introduced her as a woman who went through a traumatic relationship experience, but returned “badder than bad” and rebellious.
She was just beginning with shedding the good girl image. Post her marriage crisis, she no longer had to answer to Nigerians about being married and a wife to someone as an impediment to expressing her creativity. Even if she did, she no longer cared what they thought. Yes, she had a son from the relationship, but she was now separated and the longevity of her marriage remained fuzzy. And to create more fuzziness, Savage rebelled. Her music videos got even more sultry and her off-camera antics got equally as sultry and rebellious so much so she shared videos of her shenanigans on her social media pages, daring people to talk and see if she cared. The stage was set to re-introduce to Nigerians a good girl gone bad, “Africa’s #1 bad girl” as she croons in her ‘Malo’ video featuring Wizkid.
Fast-forward to 2018, and this new Nigerian & African “bad” girl introduces a music video that in no unequivocal terms expresses her control over her sexuality, including lusting over whomever she wants to, cougar style, sef. For example, in her newly released and rather odd music video, ‘Get it Now’, she is seen visiting the gym for a workout. When we enter the gym with her, she directs our attention to a younger man who seems to be a gym security staff, and later it appears a personal trainer. Whatever he is hired to do, he is distracted by her, and instead spends most of his time observing her body parts (especially her booty) and movement through the gym’s security camera. Aware that he is lusting over her, she makes it clear she is on the same page, with a full display of her booty from different angles as she attempts to exercise on the Stairmaster, and later the floor of the boxing ring in the gym. When her attempts seem unsuccessful, she goes up to the security camera on her end and announces she knows he is lusting over her and tells him to hurry up and come “get it now” because his time is running out.
Gyms are places meant for working out, but yes, the Savage type scenario has been known to happen, often, in certain gyms that are essentially “meat markets.”
What’s the reaction of Nigerians? They love it (men and women). “Wawu”, what a surprise.
Savage has a songwriting deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a recording deal through her company 323 Entertainment with Mavin Records, and has a management deal with Roc Nation (2016). She has released two studio albums, ‘Once Upon a Time (2013), R.E.D (2015), and one EP, Sugarcane (2017). Her ‘Get It Now’ music video is the visuals to the hit single off her EP.
Alas, Tiwa Savage is now a Nigerian sex symbol, under the terms, she has wanted. Let’s see what happens next.
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