Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Tyla shines in her self-titled debut studio album

The ‘Water’ singer successfully brings South African music to a dance club near you
Photo courtesy of Pitchfork.
Photo courtesy of Pitchfork.

Early last year, South-African singer Tyla was a locally successful yet internationally unknown artist. She had seen success in her home country with her first three singles, but was yet to break through the seal of global fame. This changed following the release of her hit song “Water.”

Upon the release of “Water,” the song went viral on TikTok and charted on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the youngest South African to appear on the chart and the first South African soloist to chart in 55 years, simultaneously propelling her to international success.

Nearly two months ago, Tyla again found herself on one of the biggest stages in the music industry when she accepted the inaugural award for Best African Music Performance at the 66th Grammy awards for her song “Water.”

Now, looking to cap off the extremely commercially and critically successful year she had, Tyla released her debut studio album, the self-titled “Tyla,” on March 22. The album is a fusion of South African amapiano, house, hip-hop and R&B, culminating in an infectious energy that serves as a worthy follow-up to the danceable “Water.”

The album follows in the footsteps of “Water” brilliantly. After the success of the song, Tyla had the opportunity to establish herself as one of the leaders of the movement by bringing African music to the world’s stage by sharing pieces of South African culture through her dance-pop songs. She brilliantly presented herself up to the task, creating an album that encompassed both the spirit and grandeur of “Water.”

The album begins with an intro that quickly transitions into the first song on the record, “Safer.” The song is an anthem for toxic relationships, which Tyla is aware are toxic, singing “I know that it’s danger / I know I’m safer runnin’.” The song introduces listeners to the signature beats Tyla employs throughout the album, a distinctly African percussion section with a house-style blend.

“Water” makes its appearance on the album as the third track before transitioning into the equally catchy “Truth or Dare.” The song was the album’s third single released before the rest of the album. In the track, Tyla takes a step back from the powerful vocal style she employs in the previous two songs for a more low-key delivery, giving the song a relaxed, groovy vibe.

“No.1” sees Tyla explore themes of self-worth, describing how she is the person in her life that deserves the most attention. This track features Nigerian singer Tems, whose inclusion feels like a match made in heaven. Tems, a leading figure in bringing Afrobeats to the world’s stage, blends her brilliant vocal skills with Tyla’s sweet delivery.

“Butterflies” is the record’s biggest departure from its South African style. It almost completely replaces the percussion section for a silky-smooth guitar riff that accompanies Tyla on the track. Tyla’s vocal delivery changes from the long vocal runs and catchy lyrics in the rest of the album to a more structural style, akin to Ariana Grande’s recent fusions of pop, hip-hop and R&B music.

On “Jump,” Tyla collaborates with Gunna and Skillibeng to fully embrace a combination of western rap and South African amapiano. Tyla tries her hand at simultaneously singing and rapping, and, along with Gunna’s relentless flow and rhymes, succeeds at bringing the two worlds together. The song’s backing vocalists cement the collaboration aspect that makes the song sound so good.

The rest of the album concludes with a run of songs in the same vein and style that Tyla has established herself as, providing more danceable music and smooth vocals. On one of the tracks, “On My Body,” Tyla collaborates with Becky G, who brings her own distinct flow in Spanish.

The record concludes with a remix of “Water” featuring Travis Scott. While the inclusion of this second version of the song feels redundant as a listener, each version’s respective position in the album paints a bigger picture: the story of Tyla’s success. Including the remixed version with one of the biggest rappers in the world showcases just how far Tyla has come in terms of establishing herself as a serious, internationally acclaimed artist.

Tyla’s debut album delivers everything that it promised: a continuation of the global phenomenon that was “Water.” If you liked that song, and are looking for more catchy, energetic African music, look no further than “Tyla,” a record that will be sure to get you on your feet feeling the music.

Gustavo Atencio Flores can be reached at [email protected].

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