The organisers of The Headies Awards, Nigeria and one of Africa’s biggest recognitions for contributing to the advancement of the Nigerian and African music industry added three new award categories for the forthcoming 15th edition of the awards– Digital Artist of The Year, Best Inspirational Single, and Best International Artist (BIA for the purpose of this column). The winner of the 3 newly added categories will be decided based on fan votes.
Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Drake, Nas, and Ed Sheeran have all been nominated in the BIA category and have the chance of becoming its first winner when the results are announced on or before September 4, 2022.
However, the addition of the BIA category has divided opinions among critics and fans; while a few have welcomed the effort, many have deemed it unnecessary and inconsequential to the development of the Nigerian and African music industry. But in essence, it’s actually the only addition that makes sense of the three, and the following reasons are why it makes sense.
#1 Nigerian and African music more than ever in history, is consumed all over the world
One of the boldest moves by the The Headies show-runners is to move the award show abroad this year. Despite being primarily created to serve a Pan-African purpose, great empires are built by securing allegiances, and expansions– apparently, that is what The Headies will be hoping to achieve with this whole foreign escapade. More than ever, the world is relishing the output from our industry; foreign charts are being specifically curated for our music, programs and concerts are getting designed uniquely for our artists, and the shows are more inclusive. We are punching well above our weight in the global music industry notwithstanding our lack of infrastructure and commitment to capital investment. That says a lot about how much positive influence the international community, including record labels, fans, and artists have imparted on the development of the motherland’s music industry. Therefore, in good faith, if The Headies decide to present awards to international artists for their contributions, it will likely serve to spur more of such partnerships and raise appeal for our exports.
#2 International artists have truly earned the recognition of The Headies
If we usually have a bone to pick with foreign institutions whenever they fail to recognise deserving Nigerian and African artists for their exploits, especially in the US, why then should we criticize The Headies for seeking to reward talent, hard work, good intent and exploits in our own country. Unless of course it’s a case of ‘an eye for an eye,’ but that’s not progressive. We are the underdog no doubt, but we can also be the trailblazer, be the ones to implement the changes that we want to see. Moreover, this is not a case of unmerited generosity. International acts have contributed to the rising global appeal of our music and the success of our artists on the world stage. The eventual winner will be deserving of the award. For instance, When Wizkid recruited Justin Bieber for the remix of his 2020 hit song “Essence” featuring Tems, it caused the resurgence of the original song and earned Afrobeats a maiden entry into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Today, “Essence” has moved over 3 million copies in the US alone and is certified 3x Platinum by RIAA. Let’s not also forget the fight is not with artists, it’s with institutions. After all, Nicki Minaj, Joe Budden and many others thought ‘Essence” deserved to be song of the year at the 2022 Grammys.
#3 The move changes our Status from small players to BIG PLAYERS
Five years ago, no one in their right minds would have predicted that a Nigerian would win a Grammy for their original work, headline a show at a sold out Madison Square Garden, sell out the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, and perform at the Billboard Music Awards, all within a year. Okay. Maybe someone did think about it, but how many people took those talks seriously? Including you. If there’s any substance left in of our title as the giant of Africa, it’s our music. And rather than settle for what they hands us, why not we start taking what we deserve, showing the world that we can fly?