Tyla Offers Fresh Perspective To Amapiano On Debut Album

Tyla’s rapid rise to the summit of commercial success in the South African, and even broader African music scene, is unprecedented. In less than a year in the limelight, she could already boast multiple chart entries, including Billboard, and to top it off, she became the youngest African Grammy winner, all on the strength of a single hit and without releasing a studio album. However, her journey didn’t commence with the one-year trajectory of her hit single “Water.” Tyla had embarked on her music career professionally after graduating from high school in 2019, achieving respectable national success before gaining international recognition.


The timing for her debut album couldn’t be more opportune—still riding high on the success of “Water” and her short span of achievements. The debut effort was aptly named “Tyla,” a bold nod of introduction that symbolically transferred the entire personality of the burgeoning star through the shared name. The album boasts an impressive lineup of heavy-duty features, including Nigerian star Tems, Jamaican heavyweight Skillibeng, Latin pop sensation Becky G, American rappers Gunna and Travis Scott, and her beloved producer Kelvin Momo. 

For the album, it starts on a raw, free-spirited note with “Intro,” an unedited recording of a studio session which, in itself and to a large personal extent, is a perfect way to introduce an album and set the tone for the whole project. But many fans of Amapiano showed a great deal of discontent given the initial announcement of a Kevin Momo feature with Tyla was an anticipation of a full-length banger rather than a 40-second “voicenote.” Nonetheless, it served its purpose perfectly, setting the tone as the introductory single.

“Safer” presents Tyla’s unique presentation of Amapiano, like an American pop star on an Amapiano song. She delivers a classic pop girl favorite but on a typical amapiano beat, with log drums, upbeats, and heavy percussion. All in all, the single is very solid, a refreshing take on the South African sound. The crowd favorite “Water” comes next, providing a replica of sound, not in a bad way though. It is the refreshing blend of Pop into the heavy log drums and percussion of Amapiano. 

Tems on the album, on “No 1,” would normally spell out a change in tempo to a more R&B-centered vibe, but over that, the underlying Pop & Amapiano fusion reigns supreme, with Tems stepping way out of her comfort zone, surprisingly riding the wave just as smoothly as Tyla. “Breathe Me” almost presents an exact replica of “Water,” especially the intro, taken aback with the semblance, even down to the heavy sensuality and suggestive content. It’s a beautiful, unique song, albeit with Tyla showing her ability to set tones and feelings in her music.

“Butterflies” offers the first change in tempo of the album, with strings changing the tune to a more laid-back R&B vibe. Tyla shows mastery not just in a single genre but in all, with the accompanying piano synths delivering the perfect sound for a “butterflies in belly” description in the song. “On and On” is right back to Amapiano, but this time at a different tempo from what we heard earlier, much slower and composed, delivering a third show of ability from Tyla in her variety, still on her pop-heavy vocals. “Jump” offers a heavy influence from Skillibeng, sounding dancehall from the beginning. The combination of genres on this tune is a variety of goodness, with Afrobeats, dancehall, and Amapiano all in a smooth blend. The three-way fusion on this single arguably offers the best collaboration on the album.

Tyla is on this album in her lover girl world, delivering love songs for days. “ART” represents another love song featured throughout the album, and it might just be the least sensual, offering a PG version compared to the rest. The album typically sees every featured act stepping out of their comfort zones to deliver what they don’t typically pursue or have never been heard on. Surprisingly, Becky G, whose base is generally Latin Pop, appears on a typical Afrobeats production in “On My Baby,” and it unexpectedly becomes a hit, all thanks to the genius of Tyla, P2J, and Sammmy Soso. “Priority” strings backdrops on the log drums and percussion with Tyla’s vocals, creating a match made in heaven. Outdoing on every track was definitely the plan for Tyla. 

Tyla for The New York Times Style Magazine
Tyla for The New York Times Style Magazine

“To Last” presents a heartbreak story at the end of the album, with Tyla purposefully “saving the worst for last,” depicting the almost certain eventuality of all the romance and passion throughout the album. The song’s pattern strongly reminisces the Pop EDM era of hits that dominated the 2010s and early 2020s, but this time with Amapiano. Closing out the album is the remix version of “Water” with Travis Scott, offering a different perspective on the hit single.

The album generally is very enjoyable, given Tyla’s refreshing perspective on Amapiano. However, the only downside personally is the hints of monotony in the album, possibly due to the cohesive presentation of “Tyla” on the album or her perfect mastery of the sound, making it all sound the same. The monotony, however, is not necessarily a downside, as the album is a solid piece nonetheless that delivers on its purpose of showcasing Tyla and her immense depth of talent.

Listen to “Tyla” Here

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