Teyana Taylor, by measure of your average R&B star, hasn’t had it easy. Her road to stardom has been far from the norm – in 2012, she was signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label, but had to wait another two years for her debut album, VII, to materialise. Her follow-up project, K.T.S.E (‘Keep The Same Energy’) was hastily released four years later in 2018, with labelhead Kanye admitting that he sent unfinished version to streaming outlets, prior to Teyana’s knowledge. The tension between Taylor and her label has been widely documented, with the R&B star publicly acknowledging the issues in interviews and on social media.
With tons of press coverage and a star-studded album launch party (that likely broke all social distancing rules), it almost feels like Teyana is finally getting the attention from her label she deserves. The Album, Teyana’s third studio album, was released on June 19th. Her debut ‘VII’ set firm foundations in the contemporary R&B space, and K.T.S.E, the follow up, played on that, and saw her experiment a little more. ‘The Album’ is a beautiful amalgamation of the two and sees Teyana at her most open.
The Album is candid in the way you want, and need, a great R&B project to be. An honest perception of womanhood: The Album gives us the growth from Teyana that we’ve been waiting for. She doesn’t just remark on relationships, contemporary R&B’s safe space. Instead, she invites us to explore other aspects that are clearly important to her – femininity, motherhood, sensuality and more. Speaking to Apple Music, she explains that the album can be split into different ‘studios’, to allow the listener to “explore every mood”. Romance, sexuality, value, vulnerability and triumph – these are the “studios” she mentions, and it goes part way to explaining the length of the album (it stands at 23 songs, and almost 80 minutes long).
Unusually intimate from the start, The Album’s Intro is a soundbite of Iman (Shumpert, Teyana’s NBA player husband) delivering their first child, Junie. This frank insight into a section of her life that most would consider private, isn’t too dissimilar to how we’ve always known Teyana, from her Super Sweet 16 on MTV back in 2006, to her bare-all reality show, ‘Teyana and Iman’.
The album’s first full length track, ‘Come Back to Me’, follows on with the theme of family and intimacy, with a feature from Rick Ross, but also daughter Junie, with their voices harmonising mid-track. The song, produced by D.J. Camper, is the perfect song for a Rozay feature, and he raps with a luxurious ease that not many can replicate. Ross is just one of many features of the album, all of them working seamlessly with Teyana vocals as she takes us across different genres. Quavo’s auto tuned vocals work well on ‘Let’s Build', and there’s a pleasantly surprising synergy between afrobeats artist Davido and Teyana on ‘Killa’, a track that’s a standout on the project.
The Album pays great homage to the best type of traditional R&B without having to rely on the idea of familiarity. Timbaland-produced ‘Boomin’, featuring the legendary Missy Elliott and the best version of Future provides us with a single-worthy track. Teyana also summons old-school R&B heavyweights Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, allowing her to fully explore the nuances of R&B, both classic and contemporary. Borrowing Erykah’s vocals from 1997 single ‘Next Lifetime’ for the soulful track ‘Lowkey’, whilst Hill provides the perfect outro on ‘We Got Love’, with a spoken word performance that speaks on self-love and self-significance.
The project isn’t perfect – it lags in the middle with one too many ballads, and some tracks are a little forgettable. But The Album is a great project, playing on both Taylor’s vulnerabilities and strengths. She finally appears to be dancing to the beat of her own drum, and for that, I have no choice but to stan.