Album Reviews

The Year I Turned 21 By Ayra Starr: Not 19 But Still Dangerous

Ayra Starr remains a formidable force, as evidenced by her sophomore album, The Year I Turned 21.

Ayra Starr The Year I Turned 21 review
Ayra Starr [PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram/@ayrastarr]

Born in 2002, Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe, who is best known as Ayra Starr is poised on the precipice of musical greatness. She’s not just on the rise; she’s on the verge of shattering records and claiming her place among the industry’s elite. For our The Year I Turned 21 Review, we take a look at her sonic delivery, songwriting, productions, and more.

A few weeks ago, she became the Nigerian artist with the most monthly listeners on Spotify with 25.4 million monthly Spotify listeners just behind Tyla with 32.9 million monthly Spotify listeners. Her sophomore album’s lead single Commas, is the most streamed Nigerian song on Boomplay and Spotify. Commas, an inspirational tune produced by Ragee, London, and AOD, highlights Ayra Starr’s determination to avoid distractions and stay focused on her path to massive success, potentially leading to more commas on her paycheck. This stunning track features peaceful instrumentation, including lush string sections and a strumming guitar, creating a serene backdrop for Ayra’s enchanting vocals. Her voice will leave you in a trance from start to finish. 

Just as expected, Ayra Starr’s vocals on the next single Rhythm and Blues are as sensual as they are satisfying. Her pen game on the same record is definitely one that should contest for the best love song out of Africa in 2024 if there is ever to be an award like that. The record and its story is just as important as Ayra Starr’s debut collaboration with Seyi Vibez on Bad Vibes. Produced by Mystro, Bad Vibes is a Caribbean melody with a spiritual bop to compliment Ayra’s vocals and Seyi Vibez’s energetic flair, creating an infectious and uplifting tune. 

Her journey took a pivotal turn in December 2019 when she uploaded her original song Damage on Instagram. The track garnered thousands of listens, catching the attention of Mavin Records’ executive Don Jazzy, who swiftly offered her a recording contract.

Ayra Starr remains a formidable force, as evidenced by her sophomore album, The Year I Turned 21. While she has grown beyond the age referenced in her debut album, 19 & Dangerous, released in August 2021 (with a deluxe edition following in October 2022), her evolution as an artist is palpable.

At 21, Ayra Starr’s age is more than just a number; it signifies her maturation in the predominantly male Nigerian music scene. 

Her sophomore album kicks off with Birds Sing of Money, a collaboration with producer London. The afro-fusion track, infused with elements of electronic dance music, showcases Ayra’s rich emotional depth.

In Goodbye (Warm Up), Ayra Starr partners with Asake to deliver a heartfelt farewell to an ex. Produced by P2J, the track resonates with anyone who’s closed a chapter in their life, blending poignant storytelling with the thrill of new beginnings. The track’s intro, with its distinctive Jamaican flavour, meshes seamlessly with P2J’s xenorhythmic beats, making it a standout on the album.

Transitioning from a teenage sensation to an adult trailblazer, Ayra Starr continues to lead her generation with her groovy, melodic tunes. She remains an inspiration to emerging female artists, carving out a legacy that breaks barriers and sets new standards.

Grammy Award nominee Ayra Starr joined forces with fellow powerhouse women Anitta and Coco Jones to create the groovy afropop track Woman Commando, produced by Ragee. This vibrant song serves as a summer anthem for all the strong women leading in their industries. Ayra’s second verse resonates with empowerment, as she sings, “Tonight e be ladies night,” encapsulating the spirit of female camaraderie and celebration.

Control is a lighthearted tune that, somewhat ironically, doesn’t quite embody the gravity one might expect from its title. On the other hand, Lagos Love Story features Ayra Starr pouring her heart out over two minutes and thirty-five seconds, singing about her affection for her Lagos lover.

21 and Last Heartbreak Song, featuring Giveon, are essentially two sides of the same coin. While 21 was produced by Fwdslxsh, KillSept, and Mike Hector, and the Last Heartbreak Song by Louddaa, their messages are deeply intertwined. Linking these tracks to the second track, Goodbye (Warm Up) featuring Asake, one can’t help but wonder if Ayra Starr has experienced some messy heartbreak.

In Odun, Ayra Starr finds her way back to Louddaa, the Mavin Records in-house producer who played a huge role in her eponymous debut project in 2021. 

To honour those who paved the way for her success, Ayra Starr collaborates with Don Jazzy and Wande Coal on Jazzy’s Song, produced by P Prime. The track interpolates Wande Coal’s You Bad, while Ayra Starr’s enticing vocals address the importance of intelligence and setting boundaries.

Ayra Starr teams up with her brother Oluwadamilare Aderibigbe best known as Milar, a rising songwriter and performing artist on 1942, a groovy mid-tempo tune produced by Johnny Drille.

My Kids Are Alright features Ayra Starr’s mum offering advice to her 21-year-old daughter, encouraging her to enjoy life to the fullest and not save all her earnings. Ayra Starr delivers an acoustic performance, singing to her late dad with hopes that he makes it to heaven and signs out with personal messages from Ayra and her sibling to their late dad. 

The album ends with Santa by Rvssian featuring Ayra Starr and Rauw Alejandro. 

In summary, The Year I Turned 21 album by Ayra Starr is a not-too-ambitious, not-too-experimental sophomore album that could just break the recent cycle of artists underperforming on their sophomore albums as the young and vibrant 21-year-old singer kept her 15-track album relatable, and likeable.

Ayra Starr The Year I Turned 21 review
Review Overview

In summary, Ayra Starr's album 'The Year I Turned 21' is a balanced and relatable sophomore effort that breaks the trend of underperforming second albums with its 15 likable tracks.

  • Songwriting9
  • Production8
  • Sequence7
  • Enjoyability8
  • Delivery8.5
STREAM 'The Year I Turned 21' BY AYRA STARR

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