How Libianca Scored Afrobeats' First Global Hit of 2023

Ayomide Oriowo

March 8th, 2023

When Libianca recorded “People '' in 2022, it was intended as a song for mental health advocacy - a song that will highlight the ills, struggle as well as coping mechanisms that come with depression and anxiety. Today, “People” is a chart-topping song on several official charts across the world including Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the United States, and more. 

A participant on the 21st season of the popular American Music show, The Voice, the Cameroon-American singer-songwriter has found massive success with her latest single; she’s charting in the top 20 of her Official UK Single chart, she’s charting in the top 20 of the Official Nigeria Top 100 and has made entries in the Global Top 100 of Apple Music and Spotify Global 200. It is safe to say that Libianca has scored the first global Afrobeats hit of 2023. For Libianca, it still comes as a shock to know she’s following in the footsteps of Afrobeats greats such as Davido, Burna Boy, Tems and Wizkid. She describes it as an ‘euphoric feeling that never ceases to amaze’ whenever she hears a new feat that she’s added in the past couple of months. When she dropped “People,” she admitted that she would have been happy knowing that one person connected with the music. Today, millions of people across the world have found a place in their hearts for her song. 

The mid-tempo song was released during the holiday period - a traditionally difficult period to release new music because of the numerous club bangers for Detty December, and even more difficult in the West due to the resurgence of holiday and Christmas tunes.

“I think the festive period is also one of the most difficult periods just emotionally too. And the song [People] spoke to that and I think it was a perfect time for it. It was something that was needed because with everything happening during the period, one can feel somewhat jaded. During the holiday, life is happy, life is good for some people but it is also the opposite for others. I think there is a majority of people that could relate to the latter and they just connected to the music. I honestly think that’s why it caught on, it spoke to real life, it spoke to almost taking off the misty glasses and understanding that it is something that happens all year round, and people found it endearing that someone was taking time out to speak about it.” 

This strategy paid off heavily for Libianca; today “People” has tallied over 100 million streams on Spotify while the music video has surpassed 20 million views on YouTube in less than a month. In Nigeria, the song has peaked in the top 20 of the Official Nigeria Top 100, peaking at No. 12, and with the release of a remix featuring Ayra Starr & Omah Lay, the shelf-life of the song has just been extended and super-charged.  

When quizzed on plans for Libianca following the success of “People,” Mel [Libianca’s A&R] adds, “I would say to build her profile as an artiste within the Afro scene and solidify her as one of the artistes to watch in 2023. We really want to ensure high quality music from her and continue to build her discography.”

On the February/March issue of the Industry Digest, Libianca talks about the success of her breakout single “People,” seeing some of the biggest artistes in Nigeria cover the song, her career beginnings, a desire to return to Cameroon in the immediate future and more.

TTC: It might feel like forever but “People” dropped in December 2022. How has the journey been since you dropped the track? 

Libianca: At first, I was overwhelmed, I didn’t even know what to do. It was like I just froze but as time went on I got accustomed to everything and I’ve just been feeling very grateful to God, grateful to every single supporter that is out there. I was just so surprised by how fast it happened and I just couldn’t be happier, I’ve reached my euphoric state so I’m not gonna lie it feels good to see my music connecting with so many hearts and helping so many people heal, I couldn’t have asked for a better way for God to introduce me to the world

TTC: What would you say is your favourite career-changing moment since you dropped “People”? 

Libianca: Honestly, everything so far has shocked me so it is difficult to pick a single moment. When I made this song, I couldn’t have predicted what it would do. All I knew at the time was that I like this song and it’s speaking my truth, so if it can even connect with one person that would be good. But one moment I remember well is when I posted the song and went to bed after. I woke up in the morning and it was viral, so I didn’t even have a chance to see how it happened. When I woke up in the morning, I was with my manager, I was in disbelief and I just didn’t know where it was going to go. I hoped it kept going up and it has been that way since. 

TTC: What was the inspiration behind the song? 

Libianca: “People '' is musical advocacy for mental health because there are people who have mental disorders, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Some people don’t have who don’t have disorders but we all go through things. Essentially, this song was a message to say “hey, you’re seen, I see you, what you’re going through is normal, you’re not crazy, you just have to stick it through, you just have to be strong.” I wasn’t thinking about anybody in particular, it was exactly how I was feeling and usual. And anytime I get a song done, my only hope is that at least one person can connect to it, so it was very good that so many people could feel it and that means I’ve done my job.

TTC: How did it feel seeing some of the biggest artistes in Africa release their covers for your song? 

Libianca: it’s been very validating and sometimes I still get shocked when I see them. For Buju (BNXN) to give his lyrics on it, I just felt so honoured to have an artiste of that level put their spin on my record. Seeing so many talented artists drop their covers just shows that there’s no limit to how far a song like this can go. Everybody has felt almost the same way before, a lot of people could relate to the song. I still can’t believe everything that’s happened so far.  

TTC: Do you have a favorite cover, one that stood out for you? 

Libianca: I love Buju’s cover, that one was not even a cover, he put his whole verse on that and the reason why I love it so much is that the lyricism was so original and deep, it just added to the message of the song even, I would say Buju got me with that one

TTC: Do you have plans for remixes and new versions of the song, maybe acoustic or live?

Libianca: I do have other plans for the song. There’s going to be acoustic, live performances of the song and things like that. There are going to remix too; different remixes for different territories with different awesome artistes. Fans can expect the French remix, Afrobeats remix, and probably a South African remix. My team and I are just trying to find the best artistes that we can work with and add an extra layer to the song. The goal is to spread the message of “People '' across the world. 

TTC: Your song has over 90 million streams on Spotify and over 20 million views on YouTube alone; what do you feel whenever you see these numbers? 

Libianca: I just get emotional and excited. It is sort of like the feeling you get after working on the farm on a sunny day and returning home where you are welcomed with a chilled bottle of water or some Fanta. That very first feeling of “oh yeah” where you’re so happy - that’s exactly how I feel every time that I see those numbers going up. For me, this means that there are so many people all over the world listening to my message, and loving it so much that they can’t get enough of it.

TTC: It will come as a shock to many when they find out you’re not Nigerian or from West Africa.

 Libianca: They are usually very stubborn like no “na lie”, “you’re lying”, “you’re not from no Cameroon” and I’m like “how are you gonna tell me where I’m from'' [she laughs]. I take that in a very good way because most people have not seen an artiste come out from Cameroon at this level. I understand where they are coming from but moving forward I’m always gonna let it be known where I’m from. At the end of the day, we’re just all one human race but where I’m from is Cameroon. I will always be a Cameroonian girl. 

TTC: How often do you visit home in Cameroon? 

Libianca: The last time that I was in Cameroon was when I was 16 which was 6 years ago. There was an internal war that was going on during the time and that meant it wasn’t the safest time for me to go back. I haven’t visited since then. And to be honest, I also didn’t even have the money to buy an expensive international flight still. I’m planning to go back soon because I miss the country. I miss my people, my friends, and my grandma. By God’s grace, I will be there this year. 

TTC: Your musical journey has taken you to The Voice, you’ve been releasing for quite some time now but most people would look at it and think she just blew out of nowhere.

Libianca: Yes, that is usually what happens. It’s been a very interesting journey - from the days before The Voice to competing on the show, to getting signed and now getting here. There were times when I was like “man, should I just give up?” because I’m getting older and it didn’t look like I was getting anywhere with the music. There were moments when I was just angry; I was angry because I knew I was talented but the world wasn’t interested in my music. I had so many stages but what kept me going was my faith and the knowledge that at the end of the day, if something is made for you, it's made for you and you will get it at the appointed time. I waited for God’s timing.

TTC: How would you describe your time on The Voice?

Libianca: It is a very good platform for singers to showcase their talent and get exposure. It also helps you to hone your craft but once the show is over, you kind of just go back to your normal life most of the time.

TTC: Do you have plans for more new music during the year? 

Libianca: There is a lot of music in store so I’m going to be dropping another single and an EP this year, so the plan is to just ginger the world, give them hot sauce, that’s what we’re doing after “People.” It is time for the world to meet Libianca.

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