Ayra Starr sounds like a disruptor with a soul of 'lamba' on her self-titled debut [Pulse EP Review]
The Tems vs. Ayra Starr comparisons aren’t going anywhere. Everybody should just learn to deal with it.
At the root of it is her friendliness with Nigeria’s pop soundscape, her use of her sexuality/sensuality and her use of language.
Now 18, it’s noteworthy that she doesn’t seem as fully formed as Rema, Crayon and even Korede Bello when they were unveiled. That might be due to how those three male artists were already making music in different, but definitely higher ways before they joined MAVIN.
That said, only those who are truly aware will realize that shortcoming. will understand what makes certain people pressed or even scared. If she’s doing this with that shortcoming, what would she do when she’s fully formed? We shall find out.
What makes it all interesting is that the space of a definitively unique female figure who will bring newness to the Nigerian soundscape or Afro-pop mainstream is currently vacant. There is a chasm between the superstars/legends and the rest. If there will ever be another generation of queens, this is the time to launch.
However, that new queen can’t just be a purveyor of ‘lamba.’ Over the past few years, only Tems and Ayra Starr have looked anything like ‘the one who was promised.’ Thus, Ayra Starr’s entrance is perfectly-timed.
Her self-titled 5-track EP is a topsy-turvy chronicle of love or love-themed situations. It follows a similar trope to how MAVIN launched Rema and Crayon - new EP with no feature to go with the announcement.
The music merges elements of R&B/Neo-Soul with Afro-pop percussion. Other times the EP feels like Wizkid-esque mid-tempo experimental Afro-pop.
‘Away’ is an R&B record which sees Starr embody a woman who rejects a problematic relationship for the sake of her sanity. With passion she sings, “Leave me be…” before she wishes the man “Away, away, away…”
One thing is for sure, that boy is Yoruba.
In terms of quality and a showcase of Starr’s overall talent and what she represents, ‘DITR’ is the most important song on this EP. It’s what ‘Why’ was to Rema and what ‘Confidence’ was to Crayon. She bellows and sings, flexes her vocal range and the song headlines the Tems comparisons.
Why it seems like a rebellious Gen Z song to affirm avant-garde growth tendencies, it’s not. ‘DITR’ is a coming-of-age song which mimics a CW drama from the 2000s. It documents the wrong exposure of young people with a gender balance.
Due to peer pressure and mental health issues, they start drinking and smoking excessively. The girl becomes a runs girl while the boy becomes a gun-toting gangster.
Despite the problems, Starr wants the their parents to retain love. She sings, “Your child is changing, she started drinking, she’s doing drugs now to end these feelings… She’s still your baby, nothing has changed, she’s only aging…”
Commendably, the song doesn’t blame everybody else or use mental health struggles as an excuse. Instead, it holds a place for responsibility.
This writer’s favourite song on the EP is ‘Memories,’ a mid-tempo Afro-pop record with elements of love via loud declarations, loud wishes and dreamy, yet solemn promises.
While it’s around 4BPMs faster, ‘Ija’ seems like something off Wizkid’s Made In Lagos. In fact, the guitar chord which defines the song’s melodies is reminiscent of that on Wizkid’s ‘Sweet One.’
‘Ija’ is Yoruba for ‘fight.’
On the song Starr sings, “Tori e, ma wa ija…”
In English that means, “For you, I will start a fight…”
‘Sare’ is Yoruba for ‘run.’ But instead of literal representations, ‘Sare’ is a wish from a woman who wants her man to run to her and not run away aboard Simi-esque Folksy production. In essence, she wants the boy to “Gum body like Burna Boy and not play like Ronaldo…”
Starr aced the song with that sample of ‘Orere Elejigbo’ by legendary Nigerian girl group, Lijadu Sisters.
The only weakness of this EP is its tracklist. While from a shock value and sonic progression perspective, the EP is properly sequenced, its topics are slightly scattered. The love songs should have come before ‘Away’ and the EP should have ended with ‘DITR’ because it’s a different brand of love-themed music.
To conclude this review, this writer would like to say that the Tems vs. Ayra Starr comparisons aren’t going anywhere. Everybody should just learn to deal with it.
That said, both acts are different. Tems can be more Alternative while Starr is more Nigerian and more Afro-pop with more lamba in her soul. She also sings in more native tongues/pidgin and has a more sensual brand.
The cover art for her EP shows that though she's just 18, her brand will be that of a typical young Gen Z woman - she literally holding a cup in the art.
It won’t shock anybody if Starr ends up becoming a disruptor in Nigerian music.
In essence, this battle isn’t just about Tems vs. Ayra Starr, it’s Tega Oghenejobo vs. Tunji Balogun.
Referee knack this bell, abeg…
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
8.0 - Victory
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