O2 ARENA STAGE FAUX PAS: What Wizkid and Tems must understand



by Yinka Olatunbosun


“Only you fi’ hold my body,” is the famous hook from the chart-topping song “Essence” by Nigeria’s Afrobeat export to the world, Wizkid featuring the Afro-soul singer, Tems. The song’s success story needs not be overstated having secured Grammy’s nominations for the artist(s) amongst other accolades.

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Naturally, Wizkid pushed the track through his Made in Lagos Tour – in US and the UK, where it had its most impact. That Justin Bieber jumped in on the track further propelled the 2020 release to becoming the song of the summer in June 2021. To trim the long footage, Wizkid once again performed this song with Tems at his three-day sold-out concert venue in London, O2 Arena. And to the shock of many in the live and virtual audience, Tems pushed Wizkid away from herself and was momentarily pissed off for about three uncomfortable seconds before she found her voice again.

Several videos of that moment on stage surfaced online with presumptions about what Wizkid might have tried to do to Tems. While it was widely reported that Wizkid was only trying to lift Tems, some trolls argued that he was grabbing Tems’ buttocks as well. The lemon fur jacket that Tems wore didn’t make it easy to tell if that really was the case. And subsequently, Tems had made light of it, describing her mentor as her brother who was only human.


Some even criticised Tems for not being a good sport on stage when Wizkid was only being in character for the story in the song. One fact that all would agree on was that it was one awkward performance. Tems seemed exhausted and detached while Wizkid was excited – perhaps, a little more than necessary – making some fans to suggest that he could be under some influence. The sight of that mammoth audience was in itself intoxicating; so Wizkid needed no alcohol or weed. With Tems’ usual lacklustre performance, Wizkid might be trying to spice up the act as he would have with Tiwa Savage or any other female collaborator. But anything can happen on stage.

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The world has not entirely forgiven Janet Jackson for her wardrobe malfunction while performing with Justin Timberlake at the 2004 Super bowl Half-time. It was called the “Nipplegate”. Timberlake was meant to take off a part of her garment at the end of the performance but mistakenly bared her breast before 150million viewers. The outrage affected Jackson’s career; she was blacklisted for some years to come.


Back to O2 Arena, it was clear that Tems was not down with PDA on stage so that aforementioned hook does not apply. Perhaps, she is in a committed relationship and wouldn’t want to build distrust. Or Wizkid’s reputation with women stinks under his breath and she couldn’t just help the reflex action to push him away. Even if Wizkid was just being an artist, there was no cue for that move hence it was poorly-timed. If he had waited till the end of the track, maybe he would have scored a better chance.

O2 ARENA STAGE FAUX PAS: What Wizkid and Tems must understand
O2 ARENA STAGE FAUX PAS: What Wizkid and Tems must understand

So far, Tems has not done justice to the lyrics of the song on stage. Just picture Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Madonna or even Janet Jackson on stage with those lyrics; no stage coach would be necessary.

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That said, not all female singers love to sexualise their stage persona. Sade Adu, Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Tracy Chapman, Alicia Keys, Adele and Kelly Clarkson are only but a few of famous singers who have maintained a conservative approach to their artistry instead of joining the ‘bandwagon’ of stripping to sell records or “getting jiggy” with a male collaborator on stage. Maybe Tems belongs to that class of female performers whose strength rests more on the vocals than the sensual.


To forestall any future recurrence, Wizkid may want to consider what the music fans had dubbed “Tems and Conditions”. Even in film situations, actors enter legal contract on how much of their body would be revealed in the movie scenes. In Tems’ case, it must be settled with her management on how far her collaborating artist can court intimacy on stage.


Wizkid and Tems need to learn the ropes from great artists like Sean Paul and Eminem who have toured and performed with female artists on stage with some measure of maturity.

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