The Mavin dynasty is not coming to an end anytime soon. Producing the likes of Wande Coal, Tiwa Savage and Rema, Don Jazzy returned earlier this year with another promising act for the roster. At just 19 years old, Ayra Starr is a true blend of unapologetic Gen Z essence and her vocal dexterity has caught the industry’s attention.
Since debuting in January, the teen starlet has amassed over 23 million global streams, and her debut single “Away” as of now has reached 4 million views on YouTube. Following the immense success of her self-titled EP earlier this year, Ayra has returned with her debut album “19 & Dangerous”.
Specifically curated with young women in mind, 19 & Dangerous is an assembled chronicle of youthful exuberance and recklessness. Neatly broken down in three phases – Wild & Free, Vulnerable and Self-Assured
Wild & Free : Independence
The album commences on a high note with a focus with the first 3 tracks
Produced by frequent collaborator Louddaa, “Cast” is a rather somber opener. Mistakenly older folks would declare the track as just another typical rebellious Gen Z track. Focusing on the young, wild, and free-spirited side of Ayra, Cast is more of an affirmation of freedom. Light electric strums with a chilled beat, Ayra encourages us to take control of our own narrative because ‘anything they wan talk dey talk’. Considering how young the teen starlet is to her peers, I do wonder if the track is aimed at industry folks who dismiss the opinions of younger artists. Labelmate Rema has previously complained about elders second-guessing his sound thus would not be surprised if Ayra may be facing a similar fate.
Nevertheless, the lyric – ‘Suck on this nut if you aint approve of/I’ve cared for too long’ is going on my tombstone.
Transitioning to Fashion Killa, a mid-tempo Afro-pop record, Ayra aims to confirm her spot as a trendsetter. “I know you see me drenched in finesse” is Insta caption gold. Whilst the production is not much to write home about, Starr’s braggadocious tone laced with the cuss is enough to keep your attention.
Continuing with the Wild & Free theme, Ayra runs down on the ‘vibe killers’ in the next track Bloody Samaritan. Passionately she conditions her haters to keep their eye on her cause this ‘bad bish going to be bad everyday!’
One of the strongest records on the album, clearly the song is intended as a shot for a summer hit. With Wizkid/Tem’s Essence and Naira Marley/Busiswa Coming already vying for the song of the summer spot, I am not confident if the track is strong enough to make an influence on the summer hit race.
Shifting to the heavier themes on the album, the Vulnerable phase are tracks “Lonely” and “Unknown Tell You“. The latter albeit lyrically pleasing is a forgettable filler. However, “Lonely” perfectly juxtaposes with the autonomy concept in previous tracks and is another strong track of the album. I know we said it’s a Hot Girl Summer but like Ayra said ‘I be human being no?’, we want love too so fellas forgive us for our Hot Girl antics and let us back into the house.
The next three tracks are where I found a downturn on the album. “Damaged”, “Underwater” and “Karma” all hold an impressive narrative. The ease in which she chronicles the journey of self-love and abuse on the former is impeccable. The main writer on all the tracks, Ayra’s pen is impressive, to say the least. That said, all three tracks suffer from similar issues found on “Unknown Tell You”, lyrically compelling but are let down by lacklustre production.
“Beggie Beggie” (ft Ckay), fails to create a U-turn on the album’s downslope. Though I enjoy the chemistry between Ayra and Ckay, the track is sonically unmemorable.
Self-Assured: Self Love
Thankfully, “Bridgertn” and “Amin” ascend us from the plunge. A personal favourite of the album, it’s not by coincidence that Bridgertn is spelt closely to the Netflix show Bridgerton. Like come on the song has a cello intro and references ‘queen and tea’! Production-wise, this is the most experimental Ayra has been on the album. The orchestral and fairytale-esque string arrangements paired with a bouncy R&B beat is Afropop at its finest! The final track “Amin” concludes the journey on a sweet mellow vibe with some lush harmonies.
Altogether, “19 & Dangerous” is a strong debut. Seamlessly Ayra has curated a body of work with diverse sonics cutting across afrobeats, Afro-pop, R&B, and dancehall. This next phase of Ayra’s blossoming career looks to be an exciting one.