Tyla – Tyla

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While “Water” stole the show, the lead-up to Tyla’s self-titled debut album has been far from scanty, with hits like “Truth or Dare” and “Butterflies” reinforcing Tyla’s rising dominance amid a new movement she boldly calls “popiano.” The star may not be all that available to heavily promote her debut album – an undisclosed injury leading to the postponement of a world tour and what would have been her Coachella debut – but believe me when I say that the songs have the power to drive themselves.

For the album, Tyla wanted to stay true to her origins, even kicking off the record with an intro featuring the voices of her able amapiano producer Kelvin Momo and other creatives working on the album with her in their local South African language. It was a nod to Tyla’s fierce love for her roots, and she wasn’t kidding when she said that she was here to represent Africa on a global level and reinforce the strength of amapiano.

Following up on the short playful intro is “Safer,” a song that warns that a potential lover is likely to cause her twice as much pain – and joy – than her ex ever did. Much has been said and written about the third track “Water” that I don’t feel any more should be added, not when the album is filled with hits.

In “Truth or Dare,” she is on the fence about a lover’s commitment to their relationship. Fast forward to her “No. 1” collaboration with Nigerian powerhouse Tems and she’s finally tired of being in a relationship where she feels she has to be on the fence. “It wasn’t workin’ / I pretended / Tried to finish / You wanna turn it all around / Dodging feelings / I’m too real to forget,” she sings in the first verse. In the second verse, Tems takes over and plainly calls the relationship off without mincing words – ahem, lyrics. “You don’t give me nothing / Not begging you for something, something / Virtually wasted, virtually tainted / But it’s not worth it (No) / You’re not my safety,” Tems sings.

Speaking on the inspiration and message behind the song via Apple Music, Tyla said, “The song is for everyone, but when I had it in mind, it was really for the girls—me and Tems, girl power, African girls we were just really pushing that message of ‘I’m leaving. I don’t need anybody. If this is not serving me anymore, I’m gone, and I’m going to be okay! Always put yourself before anything.”

In her bid to make the album as universal as possible, she brought in Latin-American singer Becky G, who flavored “On My Body” with the language and the vibes. The song taps the sexual theme already present in her smash single “Water” and plays it up with more confidence.

With the album crossing and almost blurring the lines that separate R&B from amapiano, dancehall, Latin, and pop (a little bit of synth never hurt anybody), Tyla was able to achieve her dream of creating an album that has a “broadened audience” and brings everybody into the experience.

As she says, this is only the beginning of her story. She has more things in store for fans as she continues on her musical journey. One of them might see her collaborate with global superstar Drake.