Ayra Starr 'The Year I Turned 21' Album Review

ALBUM: Ayra Starr - The Year I Turned 21
ALBUM: Ayra Starr – The Year I Turned 21

In a time when many Afrobeats artists shy away from the label, Ayra Starr wholeheartedly embraces its past and present, while paving a future for the genre that’s refreshingly female-forward. “The Year I Turned 21” masterfully strikes a balance that eludes many sophomore albums. Ayra Starr deepens the confessional style of her debut and introduces new collaborators who enrich her sonic landscape without losing her Afrobeats essence.

Considering Ayra Starr signed with the influential West African label Mavin before she was even 21 years old, and she released her debut album, “19 & Dangerous”., “The Year I Turned 21”, her second album, showcases a Grammy-nominated Ayra Starr who is determined to succeed and continues her pop stardom path. Even while this new Ayra Starr may sport designer looks, she remains grounded thanks to an underlying sensitivity. Beyond just feel-good tunes, Arya Starr’s carefully chosen album explores introspective themes while adhering to her unique sound.

Read on as we delve into a track-by-track review of Ayra Starr’s album “The Year I Turned 21”.

Birds Sing of Money – Hearing a London-produced beat is a signal that you are about to enjoy an amazing Afropop song, however, the brilliant track, crafted by London and Marvey Again, blends stirring strings with a boom -bap -inspired backbeat, accompanied by a melodic (a Yoruba musical genre) introduction. The opening track of “The Year I Turned 21” album already shows off the trait of a beautiful project that would garner listeners’ attention. The album begins with “Birds Sing of Money,” an alt-R&B pop track where Ayra Starr boldly showcases her beautiful vocals and daring lyrics. This song sets the tone for the album, highlighting her confidence and adventurous exploration of various sounds and styles.

Goodbye (Warm Up) ft. Asake – On this track, we witness Asake go on his formidable feature run as he comes through with a beautiful verse. The beat of this track sounds like a very unique Afropop sound most alternative listeners would love to hear and as expected Ayra Starr shone brilliantly over the instrumentals as Asake came through with the banging feature.

Commas – The Beninese-Nigerian singer-songwriter, Ayra Starr, attributes her prosperity to God in the pre-released single, “Commas,” projecting a gracious theme that flows throughout the album. Popular songs such as “Commas” and “Rush” have helped her gain international recognition; the latter has earned her a Grammy nomination for the first-ever Best African Music Performance this year. Her worldwide reach has been increasingly apparent since the release of “Commas”, establishing her reputation during the course of her three-year career in the international music market.

Woman Commando – Just like “Commas”, this track oozes aura and lit energy. “Woman Commando”, which features Anitta and Coco Jones, is a strong and uplifting song for women that is full of energy and groove. Using her love of Anitta’s exuberant style and her early admiration for Coco Jones, Ayra Starr has created a song that honors the strength and togetherness of women in funky-styled music. By putting together her team tag – woman commandos – with Brazilian megastar Anitta and R&B superstar Coco Jones, Ayra Starr uses this appeal to “feminize” Afropop. The tune highlights cross-continental ties while focusing on the concept of women by bringing these international artists into her world, as Coco effortlessly adjusts to Afrobeats, nearly threatening her own identity.

Control – Hearing a track like “Control” is so exquisite as Ayra Starr totally owns her sexuality and uses it to her advantage, becoming an inspiration for a new generation of young women who want to be just as free and famous in society without reproach. Notably, Ayra Starr pays tribute to international Colombian music sensation Shakira in “Control” by including a tune from the legendary song “Hips Don’t Lie,” which features Wyclef Jean.
Lagos Love Story – “Lagos Love Story” is a pure expression of love by Ayra Starr as the title suggests. Maybe we can say this song had some elements from her debut album, “19 & Dangerous”, echoing the vulnerable tones reminiscent of a track like “Beggie Beggie”. Remarkably, the song beautifully captures the everyday moments of young Nigerian romance, likely reflecting Ayra Starr’s earlier, more tender self.

Rhythm & Blues – This is another pre-released track. The song, “Rhythm & Blues” by Ayra Starr is another hit song that has been doing well on the music weekly charts, and it is one song that is definitely always played out loud everywhere in Nigeria. “Rhythm And Blues” is a lively track featuring an energetic performance by Ayra Starr, infused with a soothing and refreshing vibe. The song’s careful orchestration of the Afrobeats rhythm is sure to leave listeners craving more.

21 –  The passionate song “21,” written by Mike Hector, Fwdslxsh, and KillSept, develops into an R&B song about coming of age. Reflecting on her prior successes, Ayra Starr frankly shares her reluctance to accept her new age, perfectly encapsulating the spirit of a woman considering her future. At just 21, Ayra Starr has already experienced significant loss, heartbreak, and intense scrutiny from the morality police. On this track – which may have shown the major highlight of the album – she emphasizes the rapid pace of her life and the struggles she’s faced due to industry pressures.

Last Heartbreak Song ft. Giveon – This song, which is frequently praised as the album’s best track, explores the concept of love gone wrong alongside “Last Heartbreak Song.” Afro-R&B production by Ayra Starr’s longtime partner Louddaaa delivers a melancholic performance of her song about unfulfilled love. The American R&B singer, Giveon, makes Ayra Starr show a perfect duet with her American traits as he came through with a beautiful second verse with his powerful baritone.
Bad Vibes ft. Seyi Vibes – Remarkably, Seyi Vibez contributes to the pre-released single “Bad Vibes,” which peaked at the top of the charts just prior to the album’s release. The song combines sensual verses with a chorus combo that deftly strikes a balance between presenting the real Ayra Starr and being broadly consumed as Seyi Vibez gives a mainstream vibe to it.
Orun – In the emotional song “Orun,” Ayra Starr pleads with God to take away her suffering and transgressions as she sings in both Yoruba and English, stretching out her phrases to evoke strong feelings. The song’s gospel-like quality is brought out by Louddaaa’s production, which is enhanced with nostalgic guitar licks that transport listeners back to Nigeria’s heyday of Highlife.

Jazzy’s Song – In the highly anticipated single “Jazzy’s Song,” Ayra Starr skillfully incorporates melodies from Wande Coal’s “You Bad,” produced by Mavin’s CEO Don Jazzy as she used this track as a tribute to the Afrobeats classic and a nod to the legends – Don Jazzy & co – who created it.

1942 – In the introspective song “1942,” which is driven by an expressive guitar, Ayra bemoans the passing of youth. “This moment makes it all worth it/all the time we put into the job,” she exclaims, fusing her own development as an artist in real-time with her own journey from childhood to adulthood. Her brother Milar, who has been a longstanding collaborator (’19 & Dangerous’ showcases some of his songwriting), was featured on the amazing track. While Milar’s vocals on “1942” lend an intimate quality to Ayra Starr’s story, the song also functions as a moving letter to herself before she becomes famous, suggesting that she might say goodbye to her old self for good.

The Kids Are Alright – Ayra Starr concludes the album on a triumphant and heartfelt note, paying a touching tribute to her late father who she imagines is smiling down from above. With profound emotion, Ayra Starr celebrates the love of family and friends – featuring audio of the siblings and her mum talking to their dad – while embracing the euphoria of being 21 and feeling the world at her feet.

Final Remarks

In “The Year I Turned 21”, Ayra Starr deftly manages her changing status through collaborations with notable musicians. Through these collaborations, she confidently blended several genres to create a rich and varied soundscape. Touching and reflective, Ayra Starr’s songs capture the unfiltered feelings that come  her experiences. Her honesty in addressing the agony of heartache and loss draws listeners into her reality.

The talented singer, Ayra Starr, also incorporates themes of self-discovery and empowerment, demonstrating her tenacity and will to overcome obstacles. Through the embrace of her power and fragility, Ayra Starr produced an album that inspires as well as amuses. “The Year I Turned 21” is a monument to her creative development and her capacity to use music to understand the intricacies of life. Through this album, Ayra Starr explores the intricate and interwoven themes of heartbreak, mourning, empowerment, and maturity.

The “The Year I Turned 21” album also showcases Ayra Starr’s development as a person and an artist, with each song highlighting a distinct aspect of her path. Her music has layers of complexity due to the blending of genres, from pop and R&B to hip-hop and Afrobeats, and it resonates on many levels. The talented Afropop artist, Ayra Starr, has the versatility and eagerness to try new things, highlighted by the distinctive influences and viewpoints that songs in the project bring in.


Delivery: 1.8/2

Lyricism: 1.7/2

Relatability: 1.9/2

Mixing and Production: 1.8/2

Replay Value: 1.7/2

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