Ayra Starr: The Yr I Turned 21 Album Assessment

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Earlier than Ayra Starr even turned 21, she had already graduated school, signed with the powerhouse West African label Mavin, and dropped her debut album, 19 & Harmful. Her second LP, The Yr I Turned 21, is the subsequent chapter in her pop stardom storybook. Whereas 19 & Harmful spotlit an angsty Ayra jaded by poisonous, previous relationships, TYIT21 captures a Grammy-nominated Starr fixated on getting the bag. This new Ayra could be dripping in designer, however there’s an underlying vulnerability that grounds her. Not straying removed from her signature sound, Starr’s well-curated album explores introspective depths and fortunately journeys past feel-good anthems.

Within the lead single “Commas,” the Beninese Nigerian singer-songwriter credit her success to God, radiating a gracious spirituality that floats via the album. Cash is a recurring motif: “To be actual I’m nonetheless consuming off my final hit,” she raps breathlessly, then lets the phrases settle into the gospel-tinged choir of “Unhealthy Vibes.” What initially appears like a flex immediately feels existential. Starr’s reflections on cash bounce between moments of gratitude, reminders of the hustle, and an insatiable need for extra, portray a far richer image of a younger lady grappling with maturity. On “1942,” she stammers, “I don’t wanna lose”; the concern feels particularly palpable when Milar, Ayra’s brother, interjects that he’s scared he may “lose all of it” someday. The road hints at insecurities Starr may hesitate to voice herself. Right here lies the driving power of TYIT21: the worry of all the things you’ve labored for immediately vanishing into skinny air.

Turning 21 is each a milestone and trope, however Starr’s portrayal throughout the report feels refreshingly difficult, stuffed with contradictions and uncertainties. She sparkles on “21,” a heartfelt meditation that wrestles with the load of self-definition. The woozy ballad thrives in its dreamy simplicity, permitting Starr to discover the plush textures of her voice; breathy croons and spoken phrase morph into full-bodied belts. Her musical alchemy makes R&B’s stream and Afrobeats’ rhythmic pulse groove in unison, rendering her voice a pure match for extra conventional ballads. It’s an inside monologue between youthful optimism and being comfy not realizing all of it. “21” fades on the mushy chorus of the phrase “22,” a chilling lullaby turned cosmic nightmare.

Regardless of her plain progress over the past two years, Starr’s phrases nonetheless learn like a diary. This album basks within the greenness of youth. From the violin-guided opener “Birds Sing of Cash,” Starr places up an IDGAF entrance, spitting, “I don’t watch my tone trigger I like the way it sound bitch,” a cheeky swerve from her softer, rose-colored lyrics. “Lagos Love Story” is an Afropop sugar rush that revels within the thrill of a younger romance—the sort of love that results in impulsive guarantees after a day of smoking weed on the seaside (“Let’s make infants, we’re nonetheless younger however I dey prepared,” she proposes). Three tracks later, Starr has prematurely declared her “Final Heartbreak Tune” in a duet with Giveon. Who’s going to interrupt it to her that that is solely the start?

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