Still more popular for her Adidas line, Ka’oir lipstick deal, and Instagram handle–the social media platform most illustrative of her urban-fashion-queen status–the once-My Super Sweet Sixteen star Teyana Taylor is itching to prove she’s a lot more than that.
Harlem’s own smoky-toned, R&B undergrounder, the 23-year-old multi-tasker can–if you weren’t aware–sing like no other.
And with bare-minimum marketing, Teyana releases her first solo album under G.O.O.D. Music, VII, via iTunes today. In August, just one single was revealed from the EP: the sultry, bass-sunken “Maybe”. A dark club hymn, the track might actually be the black sheep of VII, its peppy R&B surroundings almost too innocent. But neo-soul meshes well with the singer.
While Teyana can delve into all the lovelorn concerns of modern R&B boys like Drake or the Weeknd, it’s never quite as self-afflicted…and there’s this independent-woman light at the end of the tunnel. “I’m so tired of being invisible…to you, I’m so tired/How could a boy like you ever want a girl like me? You’re way out of my league…” is T’s jaded shrug-off of an interlude. The opening track bumps in carefree, Erykah Badu mode as her raspy voice wraps around a very “Bag Lady” instrumental.
Unlike the bulk of R&B’s rising females, Teyana’s voice doesn’t call for radio-tuned purification. Calling to mind a similarly gravelly-voiced, 90s-Brandy, her voice is richer than most are used to. Spirited, Motown soul leaks through on tracks like “Just Different”, while others like the Chris Brown-assisted “Do Not Disturb” are effectively slow, freezing all her runs and riffs over a fluttering, 808s-backed beat.
Teyana skates by with minimal collaborations on VII, but she makes room for Fabolous on “Broken-Hearted Girl”, the likely-to-be hit of the fourteen tracks–and tells him in her typical, flippant way: “You ain’t gotta send me roses/they’re gonna die anyway, that’s just boring…”. [Again, mush is no viable option.]
VII is undeniably light in content…but in 2014, so is most of radio R&B. The only thing makes this basic quality forgettable is Teyana’s actual, raw vocal talent: a natural, perfectly-throaty quality that carries us through even the lackluster of tracks (“Request”, “Sorry”, “Business”) and reminds us why we’re listening (“Broken-Hearted Girl”, “Dreams”). A solid starter album, VII is a soulful statement from the thickly alto-voiced G.O.O.D. Music associate.
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