The artistic maturation of 29-year-old singer, actress, dancer, and director Teyana Taylor has been a rare evolution from teenage, Harlem-born “it” girl to a world-dominating, multi-hyphenate every-woman.
Taylor’s slow burn to a mighty flame has attracted a passionate audience and peer group who are eager to see her as a reigning Queen in this male-dominated industry.
The release of The Album, Taylor’s starstudded third studio album, comes at a time where music and the music business are shifting toward a new regime.
June 2020 is the perfect time for a Black woman vocalist to take over the game.
Only the best music will create thrones for creators this decade. Let’s see if Teyana Taylor is ready to rule.
In usual 1-Listen album review fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Starting with a marriage proposal clip. The crowd sounds lively. There’s an elegant build-up. I’m hearing a heartbeat. Sounds like Teyana’s husband, Iman Shumpert, calling 9-1-1. This clip is cinematic. You can feel the energy. “Intro” is subtle, yet emotional. “Is the baby breathing? How’s the mother?” He sounds frightened. So this must have been the day Teyana delivered their first child. I can’t imagine the pressure. The first time you hold your child has to be life-changing. The 9-1-1 operator sounds like a nice man. He walked Iman through it like a pro. Lovely start.
2. “Come Back To Me” feat. Rick Ross & Junie
A soul-lifting beat. A baby’s voice singing, “Come back to me.” Who made this beat? The loop is sweeter than the first bite into a fresh pineapple. Rick Ross is here. A slow flow. This is the perfect beat for him. His growth as a rapper has always been impressive to me. “More plaques on the walls now.” Teyana has arrived. She sounds good. She’s harmonizing with Junie. I have to ask, is this a breakup song? It seems to toe the line between wanting to be with someone and letting someone go. I like it.
3. “Wake Up Love” feat. Iman
Nice keys. This is good. Whoever made this beat delivered a great R&B rosebed for Teyana to sing over. I’m liking this one a great deal. Grown and sexy. Iman is here. A spoken word verse. It’s free-flowing. Very poetic. Not bad, not bad. I imagine “Wake Up Love” would make it on a few quiet storm playlist. Something for R&B traditionalists. If not a keeper, it’ll be worth a revisit. Nice piano outro.
4. “Lowkey” feat. Erykah Badu
I was looking forward to this one. Graceful build-up. Teyana has a great ear for production. This beat is so good. She sounds great. I nod to Erykah’s “Next Lifetime.” Teyana is floating on the second verse. She has a rapper sense of timing. The bounce is subtle, but it’s there, you feel it in your joints. Badu is here. I love her voice. Pure honey. Erykah always sounds young, untouched by age, unbothered by time. A little slow on the backend. Could’ve been a minute shorter, but still a keeper.
5. “Let’s Build” feat. Quavo
I like what this guitar strum could lead to. A nice drop. This one has some bounce. I didn’t catch that producer tag, but “Let’s Build” sounds like a potential single. Quavo! I’m not mad. Reminds me of Wale’s “On Chill.” I could see Wale on this. Jeremih, too. Quavo is singing his lil’ Migo heart out. These two having a duet verse together is oddly working. Even though he’s spent the last two years disappointing me, Quavo has a natural talent for melody. If I heard this on the radio, I wouldn’t change the station.
A dial tone. This sounds like a phone service. It’s smooth. A 2020 Badu record. If she was making a modern version of the But You Caint Use My Phone mixtape. Man, DRAM’s “Cha-Cha” really changed the game for a summer. It was an interesting time. This one is going on a little long. “1-800-ONE-NITE” seems like an interlude. I won’t be revisiting.
7. “Mornin’” feat. Kehlani
The pace is picking back up. “Mornin’” feels like it was made for mermaids and water sign Aquarians. The vocal range is pleasant. You can tell Teyana is a child of the ’90s and 2000s R&B and neo-soul. Kehlani is from that same family tree. I still need to hear her album. I have so much music to catch up on. These two have good chemistry. Kehlani sounds great. Great song. Keeper.
8. “Boomin’” feat. Future & Missy Elliott
Future ad-libs. Sounds like a hit. Teyana sounds great. Did Missy make the beat? “Boomin” is a song that would be on a 2020 version of Supa Dupa Fly. I love Future’s background vocals underneath Teyana. A nice duality. Future appeared like he came to kill it. His delivery is a little slower than I like. I didn’t need that verse. It was fine, but I found him more effective in the background. Is that Missy? The breakdown is soulful. I need Missy and Teyana to give us a whole album or, at the very least, a seven-track EP. Another great song.
I love the start here. The loop is dripping with soul. Teyana sounds like she sings straight from the heart. A pure vocalist. If her vocals wore clothes, they would be dressed in stainless white. This song is excellent, a keeper, but I would love a T-Pain remix. His voice would complement this beat the way milk complements Oreos. That was childish, don’t mind me.
10. “Killah” feat. Davido
I wasn’t ready for this one. Whew. This Afro-R&B sound is a winner for Teyana. She has range. Davido sounds good, too. “I ain’t gonna run if the cops...” Man, every musician who mentions of police in 2020 is going to hit differently. A good record and a nice change of pace.
I am getting Rihanna vibes. Who did the beat? They laced her with a nice island swing. She’s popping her talk. I see this one ringing off on tour—when those are a thing again. It’s short but striking. I’d revisit.
12. “Wrong Bitch”
She’s slowing things down again, moving back to an R&B tone. This album is broad. It sorta reminds me of an R&B More Life. Teyana’s playlist album. With how streaming is dominating the industry, it doesn’t surprise me that a songstress would mold an album to have an array of vibes. Twelve songs in, and I’m pretty sure there’s something here for everyone.
13. “Shoot It Up” feat. Big Sean
It was subtle, but that sounded like a Hitmaka tag. “Shoot It Up” has that bounce. I wouldn’t mind if Hitmaka produced a Twenty88 album. Yeah, this is good. Where is Summer Walker? She would’ve been a great feature here. Sean! Good flow. His voice sounds a little off. The change in his vocal tone was subtle, but he switched it up. Not a bad verse. I would’ve preferred Summer, but not bad, Sean. I’d revisit.
14. “Bare Wit Me”
Production has been stellar. The Album is very 2020 R&B. Nothing forward, but nothing dated. Teyana sounds right on time. I like this one a great deal. Feels like a song that Ty Dolla $ign would be on. Is that Ty? There was a male doing background vocals. I think so. I don’t know and I don’t care, the song is good. Short and sweet.
15. “Lose Each Other”
There’s a lot of heart-baring on this album. It’s like the end of a relationship, but not the end of love. “I meant it when I said I loved you.” This is the heart of the album, so far. Eight tracks left. “We don’t have to lose each other.”
The fact Teyana’s got more to sing about is amazing to me, lol. I feel like she’s covered all the basis of love, and we still have an EPs worth of material to go. The Album has a song for all the ups and downs, and yet, still, she goes. This is good. “Trying to get through you feels like a burden.” I can hear radio loving this one. These drums are great. Sonically, Kehlani comes to mind. A good record.
The Album might be the longest album I’ve heard in a while that, while lengthy, is not bulky. I wish it were leaner, but I’m not mad at the songs themselves. “Still” is a great example of the kind of emotional records that work on the back half of big albums. Teyana keeps you in your feelings. Emotional music is a great way to discourage fatigue. She’s pouring it out in a way that keeps your attention. People will have their favorites. Is she crying?
18. “Ever Ever”
Teyana Taylor is still pouring it out. “Tell me, are you happy?” That’s a question you don’t want to be asked by the wrong person. Is this a Floetry sample? I can’t place my finger on it, but there’s something familiar about this beat. No, it’s Refugee Camp All-Stars and Lauryn Hill. Twitter, back off. The “The Sweetest Thing,” I think. Don’t mind me; I haven’t had lunch yet. Listening to heartbreak on an empty stomach is not fun, guys. Pro-tip, have a full meal before playing The Album. “Ever Ever” is a keeper!
19. “Try Again”
Teyana Taylor is taking us through every stage of a relationship where the heartbreak isn’t permanent. A mature approach to R&B. She’s reminding us that breaking up doesn’t always equate to a grand finale. People grow up; there’s room to try again. I like the way this album moves. Each song compliments the overarching theme.
I love this sample. Good tempo. The producers showed out. “Friends” has some bite. Teyana’s vulnerability has become confidence. She knows what she wants and isn’t taking anything less. These drums are hitting. Her delivery is silk smooth. “If I’m not the one, I’m the two.” Teyana said she is too rich to settle, and you can tell she meant it. Imagine if Beyoncé would’ve made this song on Lemonade?
21. “How You Want It” feat. King Combs
I like this guitar melody. Another Hitmaka beat. This one might go. I can’t wait until Puffy and King Combs are doing a soul train line to this song on Instagram. Hitmaka is from the Puffy Combs school of the sample flip. It’s critically lazy, commercially profitable, and musically familiar. King Combs has that Ma$e swagger. It’s cosmically hilarious how style can be passed down through genetics. If he keeps at it, his flow will only get tighter. The kid might be a force in a couple of years.
22. “Made It”
We are nearing the end of Teyana’s journey. The tempo is rising. “Made It” sounds celebratory. The victory lap. “All these blessings rolling in.” I can’t believe Teyana and I are the same age. I need to get my life together, lol. “I can’t control God’s time.” I need someone to ask her how she picks her beats. “Self-love is the best love.” There we go, the message of the album.
23. “We Got Love”
We are closing on an uplifting tone. These drums are bursting with life. “We gonna break the stigma up.” Teyana said love is the new money. How much love do I need to get this Porsche? That’s a serious question. I’m all for love being the new currency, but we gotta figure out a barter system. Love these strings. Beautiful song, beautiful album.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts On Teyana Taylor’s The Album
Teyana Taylor’s The Album reminds me of Chance The Rapper’s The Big Day. Both albums are lengthy, star-studded projects centered around the subject of love. Where they diverge entirely is Taylor’s dedication to showing how love is personal, it’s emotional, and it’s broader than just one singular life moment.
Taylor accomplishes depth by building a complete work, an album that doesn’t take any shortcuts to its grand finale. Getting to the end is rewarding not because of how long The Album feels, but because of everything Teyana gives us along the way.
The Album is very present, very of the moment. Thematically, however, the subject of love and the layers of her relationship does not grow stale.
Teyana Taylor’s third studio album is her most honest work of art. Its length will discourage full replays, but when played start to finish, The Album is as satisfying as someone dear placing their ear atop your heart.