• The South African singer's debut album builds on the promise of her singles with sumptuous and tactile R&B touched by amapiano and gqom.
  • Compartir
  • Tyla has never cared for genre purity. When the Johannesburg-based artist released her 2019 debut single "Getting Late," she was already finding ways to shake up amapiano, transforming the South African house sub-genre into pop music she could call her own. Her follow-up, "Overdue," went even bigger, aiming for stadium-ready qgom—her gentle vocals were triumphant, surrounded by whirring synths and cawing birds. But it was only on her record-breaking single "Water" that she hit her stride, nailing a particular sound that no one had done yet. "Water" is silky-smooth amapiano indebted to R&B, suffused with the hypnotic dance floor thrills of the former while functioning as a consummate, bite-sized pop song. It was irresistibly sensuous, every line uttered with a confidence in both herself and the night to come. "Can you blow my mind?" wasn't a question she asked without already knowing the answer. Her self-titled debut album has this same unmistakable assurance. She's found the perfect collaborator in Sammy SoSo, a Ghanaian-British producer credited on more than half the tracks. His savvy navigation of global pop music has elevated artists like Kali Uchis and Wizkid, and he knows how to work with Tyla's sensibilities, too. You can hear it clearly on "Truth or Dare," the most invigorating slab of amapiano and Afrobeats' convergence in recent months. Its titular hook recalls Nigerian pop star Asake in its moody stacked harmonies. Asake's songs, inspired in part by fújì and Nigerian gospel music, often have a spiritual bent, or at least a sense of uplift. Here, the layered vocals serve as a way to grapple with the realities of a romantic tryst. For all the sweet, daydreaming melodies that fill up the verses, the chorus is a moment of cold, hard clarity. On a practical level, the group vocals ensure these songs have a sense of variation and evolution. Tyla's voice is feathery soft, but she doesn't always know how to nimbly manoeuvre between different vocal styles. There are countless South African artists right now who can carry the most barebones amapiano songs with powerhouse vocals. Tyla isn't that sort of singer, and the best tracks here find ways to circumnavigate that. Her sinuous melodies across "Safer" go down smooth, but when she adds more vim, it feels less natural. Thankfully, the communal chanting acts as an expansion of the syncopated log drum percussion, their own towering melodies serving as vital counterpoint. "Priorities" is surprisingly low-key compared to the rest of the tracklist, but it leans into its simplicity—a bobbing beat and gauzy guitar melodies—to endearing effect, channeling the down-home charm of early Kehlani. Other songs are simultaneously more full-bodied and seamless. "ART" is Tyla's most effortlessly erotic song since "Water," so immaculate in its production and convincing in its central metaphor that it reminds you that pleasure is an essential part of life. "Go with your hands / Can you paint my body," she sings. It doesn't make total sense, but she is right to favour body over mind. Her best songs invite you into this sort of space, where sounds are tactile and words melt into pure emotion. This is deeply felt across "On and On," a song where a synth bass flagrantly rattles. That sound is one of amapiano's characteristic traits, but the rumbling is rarely tied up with such intimate, ecstatic release. TYLA arrives during a thrilling period in amapiano, after the style has already been morphed by artists throughout Africa, East Asia and beyond. Those in South Africa are continuously finding ways to innovate, too—one major development is the amapiano and Afrotech midpoint known as 3 step. Aside from a few modish outliers—Travis Scott's inconsequential "Water" remix, the awkward patois Tyla adopts on "Jump" alongside Skillibeng and Gunna—this record is Tyla's personal navigation of Afrofusion's ongoing evolution. She trades verses with Nigerian singer Tems on "No.1," a tastefully arranged Afrobeats song. The harmonies have a quiet urgency, working in lockstep with the other musical elements: lithe guitar notes, slow-building synth pads, field recordings that last for a mere second. "Breathe Me" is similarly evocative, using a beefy bassline and stirring strings to flesh out the beat's propulsive rhythm. It's only with "To Last," the album's closing track, that Tyla opts for a more traditional take on amapiano. The percussion is mellower than usual, befitting her solemn and introspective musings on heartbreak. As she reflects on what went wrong, she lets the beat ride out during two extended passages. It's in these moments, bubbling synths and all, that she lets the music convey everything she wants. The typical amapiano track would be twice as long, so when it concludes just shy of three minutes, the pain she feels is magnified by the sudden fade to silence. It's an instructive moment: Tyla's music hovers in a zone that occupies amapiano, Afrobeats, and R&B all at once. That she's able to occupy all these spaces in a way that feels familiar is a testament to her poise and ingenuity.
  • Lista de títulos
      01. Intro feat. Kelvin Momo 02. Safer 03. Water 04. Truth or Dare 05. No.1 feat. Tems 06. Breathe Me 07. Butterflies 08. On and On 09. Jump feat. Gunna & Skillibeng 10. ART 11. On My Body feat. Becky G 12. Priorities 13. To Last 14. Water (Remix) feat. Travis Scott