Tems

Tems Is Free and Vulnerable in ‘Born in The Wild’ (Album Review)

It’s officially Tems season. The sun is out, and we’re ready for some soulful serenades from one of the brightest talents in world music. Following two hyper-successful EPs in 2020 and 2021, the Nigerian songstress has finally dropped her first full-length studio effort.

Her previous work has been so jam-packed and full of emotion that you’d be forgiven for thinking they weren’t albums. However, her time has since been filled with writing for Rihanna, and casually collaborating with Beyoncé and Future. Her music even won a Grammy and was nominated for an Oscar. Temilade Openiyi isn’t exactly up-and-coming anymore, yet ‘Born in The Wild‘ feels like a re-introduction.

Themes and Features

This album follows similar themes to her previous EPs. Employing her trademark vulnerability, she sings about purging toxic relationships and self-exploration. Furthermore, she confidently wrote, arranged, and produced the bulk of this album along with frequent collaborator GuiltyBeatz. In doing so, Tems fuses genres: Afro-pop, amapiano, R&B, and neo-soul. Despite her array of A-list fans, this project has only two features – J. Cole and Asake. Debuting with an 18-track project shows the confidence she has in herself and her talent, telling a recent music journalist, “Every time I stay true to myself, it just always goes right.”.

The album artwork illustrates a darker, unruly, and stripped-bare project. Before I delved into the project, I already had several of its tracks on heavy rotation: the romantic ‘Me & U‘, and the remake of Seyi Sodimu and Shafy Bello’sLove Me JeJe‘. She has already delivered a quintessential summer singalong anthem; what else can she possibly give? Turns out, a whole lot. This artist delivers swaggering reminders that she’s that girl, emotionally expels bad energy, and reflects on a difficult, yet god-filled life she’s lived.

Tems

Wickedest

This is one for the girls getting ready for a night out. An immediate mood-lifter, Tems sounds like she’s bouncing off the walls with high-tempo production. She swerves between flows effortlessly, practically rapping the song’s hook. Warning, anyone who listens to this track will get a major ego boost, and a sudden urge to keep at their life mission.

Free Fall featuring J. Cole

Dreamy angelic vocals are broken by a head-knocking beat drop, paired with emotional guitar strums. We are free-falling with Tems here as she details a love who had his chance but blew it. She defaults to her protective state – locking up her heart and throwing away the key. This doesn’t stop J. Cole from trying to pick the lock, as he unhinges one of his best verses of recent times. This top-tier collaboration doesn’t feel forced, it feels like the perfect song for their sounds and fans to love together.

Turn Me Up

This is a personal favourite from the album. The soulful superstar is really using her voice as an instrument here, moulding it to the rhythms of the reggae-inspired production. This song follows on from the interlude ‘Voices in My Head‘, where she is being told by others about her responsibility to be a vessel for truth and hope. “You cannot win me on a lower vibration,” she sings.

In addition, Tems displays her rapping ability on this project. Take a listen to ‘T-Unit‘, a play on 50 Cent’s G-Unit collective, to hear her chew her enemies up and spit them out. A special shout-out should be made to Afrobeats superstar Asake, who floats on ‘Get it Right‘. The pair complement each other perfectly, delivering a record deserving of a lot of radio play.

Closing Thoughts

She first stepped on the music scene during the pandemic, shining her light and refreshing honesty into our lives when we needed it. This album is more of the same but with more self-assurance. This LP has her playing at Glastonbury, selling out her world tour, and breaking Spotify streaming records.

Like a lot of her music, it’s better when lived with for a while. Her music is so filled with complex emotion, that you can find your favourite tracks best when you dip in and out. Overall, this is a solid and self-assured debut project that tells a story of survival and growth.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tems is on Instagram, X, and TikTok. Read more album reviews here and stream ‘Born In The Wild‘ below.

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