A review of the debut album of international popstar Tyla

The Amapiano log drums, House music synths, groovy Afrobeats arrangement, and soothing Pop melodies steeped in R&B are what drive Tyla‘s music. Her debut album carries the compelling simplicity of her hit single ‘Water’ with the writing eager to connect, the melodies packed with sensuality, and the production pulling listeners in for a groove.

A self-titled album, the 14 tracks are all about Tyla who offers different sides of herself across themes of love, desire, passion, and purpose.

The album’s underlining Amapiano & Afrobeats hybrid is obvious from the opening track ‘Safer’ where she delicately shares her unwillingness to fall in love. Even when Tyla features Nigerian R&B star Tems on ‘No. 1’, she favoured fast-tempo Afrobeats production over an R&B or Ballad that many would have expected. ‘No. 1’ like the passionate ‘Breath Me’ captures Tyla’s intention to be a global Popstar even if she has the vocal prowess to take the R&B route as is evidenced in ‘Butter Flies’ and the old school R&B leaning ‘On and On’.

Tyla achieves a fine balance of South African and Nigerian elements for her album with Amapiano log drum which has found its way to Nigeria and dominated the soundscape serving as the common denominator. The peculiarities of both continental powerhouses shine on ‘ART’ and ‘To Last’. On the former, the log drum use is similar to its utility in the hands of Nigerian producers like Magicsticks. While ‘To Last’ captures the soul of Amapiano and deep House music crafted in the bowels of Johannesburg.

Tyla’s success in the US was marked by her exploits at the 66th Grammys where she beat Afrobeats heavyweights to the inaugural African Song Performance category. This showed her capacity to operate at the very top and the collaborations in her album are a testament to her intention and the access she enjoys. Her global popstar intentions are marked by strategic features meant to ease her music into different territories where Afrobeats is already being embraced.

In the past year, Gunna has interacted with Afrobeats. He made a surprised appearance on the remix of ‘Blessings’ by Nigerian Gospel act Victor Thompson. He delivered an impressive verse on ‘Happiness’ by Nigerian producer Sarz, and he also sampled South African star Sho Madjozi for his hit single ‘Fukemean’. Perhaps this made him an easy choice for the album as Tyla aims to solidify her penetration of the American market. The industrious single appeals to all three markets through Dancehall and Afrobeats production, Gunna’s gliding flows, and Skillibeng’s decisive presence.

Similarly, Becky G is no stranger to Afrobeats as she recently appeared on the remix of Kizz Daniel‘s ‘Cough’. She brought the Latin Pop flavour over the bouncy Afrobeats production of ‘On My Body’.

Even when she gets a bit personal on ‘Priorities’ where she owns up to past mistakes and shares her desire to put herself first, the use of log drums ties the track into the album.

Although the album is driven by a template, it avoids falling flat and repetitive. Tyla’s ability to switch it as she did on ‘On My Body’ where she deployed tropical flows, ‘Jump’ where her delivery mirrored dancehall, and her soulful melodies on ‘To Last’ help her avoid monotony. The production brilliantly delivered different imaginations of the Amapiano & Afrobeats hybrid and the accomplished collaborations delivered variety.

Expectations were high for 22-year-old whose steamy single ‘Water’ rocked the pop world. Tyla’s debut album is a statement of her intent to be a global star while making the type of music that moves on.

Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.2/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2

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