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Akon's Ultimate Playlist

The pop superstar reveals his indispensable tunes

Akon's Ultimate Playlist

Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam - known to you and I as plain old Akon - is one of the biggest and most influential stars in the music world.

Alongside his musical successes - three hugely successful albums and a string of hit singles - he has also been active in helping to bring energy to his native Africa, with the Akon Lighting Africa initiative, which aims to bring solar power to Africa.

He now launches his latest single, Tell Me We're OK, by teaming up with Shell and Pavegen to raise awareness of the need for access to energy, with the video featuring footage shot at the launch of Africa's first human and solar-powered football pitch in Lagos, Nigeria.

To celebrate the release, we spoke to Akon to discover his Ultimate Playlist, and the stories behind the choices.

Favourite Sad Song

"I don't know if it's actually a sad song, but No Woman, No Cry has always been one of my favourite sorrowful songs. But it's so funny because the topic matter, lyrically, is sad, but the song just makes you feel happy! It's funny because growing up I was a huge fan of Bob Marley and a lot of his songs were like that - you know, Redemption Song, things of that nature. Even now, when I write my songs, it's always a sad topic but given party melodies that make you feel good. When you listen to songs like Right Now - that's actually a break-up song, looking back to get back with the girl I broke up with, like 'I wanna make up right now', but it's a huge club track. When you look at Don't Matter, it's the same type of thing when you're in a position when you're trying to hold a relationship together but the people around you don't really want it - their actions, you can tell they don't really want to see you guys together. But the record still has a chorus that make you feel good. So I think those attributes probably stem from that subliminal standpoint... and the answer to that question has maybe triggered that."

Favourite movie soundtrack song

"My favourite movie soundtrack record would probably be... I don't if it's actually a song, but it's the Rocky anthem. Eye of the Tiger man! That record gets me pumped. I didn't even know it was on the soundtrack until long, later down the line, I just thought it was always a record. It's so motivational, it just gets you pumped, no matter what mood you're in!"

Favourite song from your childhood

"My favourite song from my childhood would definitely be Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses. Honestly, I never knew why it did what it did for me, but it was one of those records that I grew up listening to when I started really paying attention to music and that record - I don't know, it's just something about that song and that melody and the way he was singing it, it just really motivated me in a big way. And I used to just love guitars at that time - I love guitars."

Favourite song that no one else has heard of

"I would probably say - it's one record that I'm constantly playing and it's gonna get released eventually that me and Hardwerk (above) did called Keep Your Head Up. I've been trying to snatch this record for my album for years! This record I think is gonna be a huge, huge international smash, for sure. It's on the way!"

Favourite club anthem

"Ah man, to this day every time it comes on in the club I go crazy. I always call it It's Your Birthday! In Da Club, but I call it It's Your Birthday! I don't care what's happened that day but when that record comes out you forget about it."

Favourite romantic song

"It's a Boyz II Men record. Man, I was a huge fan of Boyz II Men when they came out, those boys - you couldn't snatch or punch a bad note out of them on that stage! They was amazing together. That harmony - it was like alt, modern-day doo-wop at that time, and these boys were just amazing."

Favourite one-hit wonder

"My favourite one-hit wonder would be... [sings] 'look into my eyes can't you see they're open wide, would I lie to you baby, would I lie to you?' I just Shazamed it the other day because I heard it on the radio... oh those boys were the truth! Whatever happened to them man? I always used to like Bobby McFerrin, Don't Worry, Be Happy too, but I think he had another hit after that, right? So he just missed it. Just missed it!"

Favourite lyric from a song

"I don't know - I don't know if I can say this is legitimately the way I feel now, but it's still my favourite lyric, on Tupac's Hail Mary thing. Man, I changed so much I don't even feel comfortable saying these words no more! But the words is, "I ain't a killer, but don't push me, revenge is the next best thing to getting pussy". But I'm not spiteful - back then, yeah... but now I feel that way but from a different standpoint, it's a different struggle now, you know? Now if you don't believe, I gotta make you believe, it's like that mindset, those lyrics still reflect that."

Favourite current song

"Definitely Tell Me We're OK, 100 per cent. And I'm not being biased, it's really my favourite song. Because I think lyrics like that is necessary right now, what's going on politically, socially, from an environmental standpoint, the fact of just people coming together and all these differences facing communities and societies today. I just think we just need to find ourselves as a human race and just realise we are all in it together and it really will be OK."

Favourite song from your own music

"That's probably the hardest question I ever had to answer. It's hard, you know what I mean! 'Cos a lot of my songs stem from an experience, so it depends on the experience at all, but I think if I had to pick one, it would be Freedom. It's like my story in so many ways, even from the melody standpoint all the way down to the pianos, it reflects the imagery and the colour of the life that I lived up to the point of freedom and getting to this place - mentally, physically - and just generally understanding how life works and what it took, and the struggles that I had to embrace - not endure, but actually embrace - to get to this point. Because I realise that every situation you go through only protects you and strengthens you for whatever future outcomes you're about to face and I think it's a situation of development. You've got to go through these things to become a better person, to be stronger, and to understand that the situation that you're coming to is gonna be a lot steeper, and it just prepares you for it."