A decade begins at what most people deem its end. For documentation purposes, people deem 2000, 2010, 1990, 1980 as the start of a new decade.
So, this decade started in 2010 and will end in 2019 – it has been eventful in music. Despite some dry patches where genuine female music stars were few and far between, the decade managed to celebrate women. During the decade, Tiwa Savage won an MTV European Music Award and Sinach’s ‘Way Maker’ became Nigeria’s biggest cross-over song ever.
Life never remained the same and stars were made. In an era and society brimming with crippling misogyny, women have thrived. Based on commercial success, impact, discography, critical acclaim, awards and international acclaim, here are the top 10 female artistes of the decade;
She is slowly becoming a veteran. She has never really been at the top, but she was never a rung of a littler either. Her excellent vocal range and voice type always mesmerize people as do her albums, W.A.J.E and Red Velvet. If not for anything, we have to give her for consistency.
In 2010, she won the Third Project Fame West Africa. Soon after, she released a single and then, ‘Jankoliko’ featuring Sound Sultan. With a combination of her vocal skills, musical output and pint-size and with impeccable vocals, she became ‘Miss Kedike.’ The tag comes on the back of her smash hit love song, ‘Kedike.’
In 2012, she released her self-titled album under Capital Hill Records. Then came ‘Emi Ni Baller,’ and its remix. At the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, she was nominated for Best Female. Her career slowed down that year, but she did just about enough for this list.
These days, you might criticize her for overly sexualized lyrics, but she is still a queen. After participating in the 2013 edition of Project Fame West Africa, she released a few singles. But the one that truly stood out is ‘Ibadi.’ According to her, she put all she had into it. Later, she also found Naija Review and Sarz – her life transformed.
After ‘Ibadi,’ two singles dropped. But ‘Soke’ took her closer to the promised land. Then came ‘Shabba’ and the incredible 2017 where her incredible vocal range and unique Sarz-production helped her become the Queen of afro-house. Since then, she hasn’t looked back and her 2017 album, This Is Me got two nominations at the Headies.
Her song, ‘Maradona’ was remixed by DJ Snake and she got nominated for Viewer’s Choice Best International Act at the 2018 BET Awards.
Ladies and gentlemen, she is the eternal lady of class with a voice of magic. Her 2019 EP, In Her Feelings was also quite good. It also followed the trend of her three previous projects, Wonder Woman, Lasso Truth and Timeless. In truth, she does not have a remotely bad album.
Asides the quality albums, her career has seen some hits, ‘Bottom Belle’ featuring Flavour, ‘Megbele’ which was a celebration of African folk music, ‘If You Ask Me,’ a satire about gossip and many others. Before Chidinma and Tiwa Savage launched in 2011, Omawumi was arguably Nigeria’s pop queen. This is marked by her wonder feature on DaGrin’s ‘Thank God.’
Simi was like Chidinma who had better music, found a better sound and was a much better stage performer. The woman is a triple threat. Asides that, her voice could make a canary jealous just as her smile could turn the most hardened man into cold water.
While attending Covenant University, she released her debut album, Ogaju. It was home to church sound, ‘Ara Ile.’ She went cold in the early parts of the decade, but sneaked her petite frame and adorable self into our consciousness while we slept. In 2014, she released ‘Tiff’ and ‘Jamb Question’ dropped in 2015 – everything started to transform.
Then came the pop single with a unique talking drum-infused arrangement, ‘Open and Close,’ but that was not her sound. After releasing the critically acclaimed Chemistry, a collaborative EP with Falz in 2016, she found a sound and became the queen of afro-folk and afro&b. Her album, Simisola was unsurprisingly named Album of the Year at the 2018 Headies.
5. Tope Alabi
Some people will argue this, but her life is a testament to staying power. When she released her debut album, Ore Ti O Common in 2001, she had gospel hits. But then, she became even better known as the voice of Nollywood soundtracks. This decade, she has released over five albums and has become the most consistent Nigerian gospel singer since 1990.
She has also pivoted into stage performances at ceremonies. You might now know her, but her numbers on Boomplay are ridiculous. No moment underlines her status as ‘Logan Ti O De,’ a 2018 collaboration with photographer and singer, TY Bello.
Spontaneous Worship had been started by Bello for a while. Then, Tope Alabi came on and did a madness. You would think the agnostic-generation wouldn’t appreciate. That day, everybody became closer to God until they decided to go fornicate. She might not be important to the Twitter generation, but her reps are big in the Nigerian mainstream – that is the majority.
The woman stole our hearts with her 2007 self-titled debut album. Due to the quality of music she makes, she takes her time with releasing albums. In 2010, she released one of the best albums of the past decade in Beautiful Imperfection. She followed it with Bed of Stone (2014) and Lucid five years later.
With her glasses and resonant lyrics, she won hearts. Even when she went away for five years, her fans remained. With her status came continental recognition in major awards. More importantly, she has remained a talking point throughout the decade.
3. Yemi Alade
She is nicknamed ‘Mama Africa’ for afro-centrism and pan-African musical appeal. Her smash hit single, ‘Johnny’ has amassed more than 110 million views on YouTube. She is also the first African female act to amass one million subscribers on YouTube. However, on home soil, she is not appreciated and she doesn’t make music for us.
On the bright side, she was named Best African Female Artist at the in consecutive years at MTV Africa Music Awards. She also has four albums that have endeared her to the francophone and lusophone parts of Africa.
Nigerians don’t appreciate her, but her numbers are ridiculously impressive. She is ‘Mama Africa’ and since that Peak Talent Show in 2009, she has not slowed down. It took her a while, but she cracked it. She has her faults, but she is super.
2. Tiwa Savage
Born in Nigeria, she grew up in the UK. She then spent part of her life in the US. While in America, she wrote songs for Fantasia Barrino, Mya and others. But then came back to Nigeria and grabbed the bull by the horns. She then rode and has continued riding. Her first two singles, ‘Kele Kele’ and ‘Love Me 3X’ dropped in 2010 and she never looked back.
A while later she signed to MAVIN Records and released her debut album, Once Upon A Time. She followed it with R.E.D in 2015 – both albums were critically acclaimed. The awards started raining and recognition started. The sold-out shows in western and European locations also followed. Then, the YouTube views spiked just as major international award recognition came in.
Around that time, she was affiliated with Roc Nation. In 2018, she was named the Best African Act at the MTV European Music Awards. In 2019, she then signed a major record deal with Universal Music Group. Just before that happened, she dropped the beautiful Sugarcane EP. She might not have the African audience of Yemi Alade, but she is bigger in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Her albums also have better acclaim and she has bigger singles and features than Yemi Alade. ‘Mummy Jam Jam’ has also been named Best Female at the African Music Awards.
Gospel is the biggest and highest-selling genre of music in Nigeria. It is unmatched and it is untouched. Lamba is Lamba, but gospel music is the cream of the crop. Nigeria is a religious nation. The depths Lamba will never touch, gospel music has gotten there. More importantly, the biggest cross-over Nigerian song of the past 20 years is a gospel song.
The song belongs to Sinach and it is titled, ‘Way Maker.’ If it had an official release in the US, it will probably be a certified platinum-selling single. It gets performed everywhere across the world and even by Kanye West’s Sunday Service. A lot of foreigners don’t even realize a Nigerian made the song. In her career, she has released more than five albums.
For every show, Sinach will only reportedly move for $50,000. She might not have your pop appeal, but her musical success in her chosen field – a bigger platform than pop music – means she has achieved something bigger. For that, she has been Nigeria’s biggest female artist of the decade.
Sidenote: Teni would have made this list, but she has only been truly successful for 18 months. However, we do think she will top list over the next decade.