As preparations for G.O.O.D. Music’s fifth album release begin, Teyana Taylor stands at the potential precipice of a new level of star power. The triple threat’s sophomore album, titled Keep That Same Energy could establish her as a necessary force in the rapidly changing game of R&B. As the final installment of the much fawned over G.O.O.D. Music rollout, the artist stands to have the best one considering there’s more for her to gain.
Teyana Taylor was always a famous darling in the industry; finding out what kind was the question. The budding celebrity was introduced to the world in the late 2000s — she choreographed Beyoncé’s “Ring The Alarm” in 2006, signed to Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak Entertainment the following January, and released her debut commercial single “Google Me” in 2008. She also made a memorable appearance on MTV’s defunct My Super Sweet Sixteen series, and eventually grew close to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. She signed a joint deal with G.O.O.D. and Def Jam in June 2012.
Her presence on Ye’s label granted her much needed exposure, appearing on the collective’s Cruel Summer compilation in multiple spots, placing her in a favorable position for the release of her debut album VII in 2014.
On VII, Teyana unlocked the frigid emotional textures of ‘90s R&B stalwarts like Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey. The album featured 12 starkly different tracks, eschewing the standard narrative put in place by music industry suits for the typical debut album. The self-aware songwriting rewarded listeners for accompanying her into the deepest parts of her soul. She’d been proven to have a life-of-the-party style that was expected to be translated in her music. But save for the Pusha T-assisted “Put Your Love On” and “Maybe,” which featured the mellow coke raps of Yo Gotti, VII was much more tempered and introspective than many expected.
Critics ate it up. Rolling Stone explained on their 20 Best R&B Albums of 2014 list how the singer’s vocals “seem[ed] to exhale right along with her.” Unfortunately, the numbers didn’t follow suit: VII debuted at number 19 on the Billboard Hot 200, selling only 16,000 units in its first week.
Her album ultimately may not have made a deep dent into the game, but she was determined to keep going. In 2016, she released “Freak On,” announcing it as the lead single for her second album. When Kanye West debuted the video for “Fade” from The Life Of Pablo during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, Teyana’s starring role introduced her to a new level of stardom. Her tantalizing, fitness-inspired dance moves made the public sweat as profusely as she was while doing it. She became more than an idol for strong-willed women to pursue their goals, a fitness maven of sorts who was confident in her skin, after having a baby only eight months prior to the video’s premiere.
Teyana is on the horizon of her prime in 2018. Her much-lauded relationship with basketball player Iman Shumpert has further thrust her into the world’s spotlight with their VH1 series Teyana & Iman. With a new audience tuned in, eyes have undoubtedly turned towards her past persona and work. When Kanye announced her album as wrapping up the five-week album release from the G.O.O.D. Music camp, Teyana’s fan base was ecstatic. With her sound and Kanye’s production, there’s no telling what will be unearthed. It’s way overdue to hear new music from her, and, if it’s good, it’ll be what establishes her as a necessary force in the rapidly changing game of R&B. The remnants of “Fade” and the spotlight that Kanye thrust upon her by having her star in the video still exist. As much as she’s an artist of high caliber, she’s more desirable than ever before.
The genre sits in a place where the spacy sounds are resting with traditional sounds R&B heads fiend for. Often called “cursive music,” newer artists like Bryson Tiller, SZA, and Ella Mai are frequently cast under this umbrella. There’s nothing wrong with this style of music, but an increasing number of those turning to nostalgia to transfix increasingly unimpressed audiences (strong 90s samples on Drake’s “Nice For What,” King Combs’ Love You Better”) means that a perfect storm is brewing for Teyana’s domination, predicated on her idiosyncracies.
This was especially frequent in the 1990s when singers like Aaliyah and Erykah Badu would create off-kilter tunes that came to define the oddity of 90s R&B, ultimately blending into the nostalgia of an era remembered as being comprised of powerhouse vocal performances. Aaliyah’s “One In A Million” and Erykah’s “Next Lifetime” – separated by a year – were simultaneously tranquil and anachronistic, yet defining songs of the 90s, and of both of their careers.
The singer’s polished lack of controversy in her life makes fans even more curious about her music.
Teyana’s 90’s vibes are in this same angle, approaching music as an appreciation of the genre’s most innovative days, yet unlike much of what made the 90s so distinctive. Her new album may be so different from her peers’ works that it makes her stand out in today’s R&B soundscape.
So far, the impact of each album on their G.O.O.D. Music’s artists’ legacy has varied. Daytona has been praised as a solid Pusha T album that helps to make his case as the best drug rapper in the game, even if it’s more or less the same sentiment he’s packaged and sold for more than a decade. Kanye’s ye, while adventurous in its exploration of mental illness, suffers from its puerile look at both politics and controversy and lack of lasting impact. Kids See Ghosts has been polarizing to fans and critics, with the general sentiment being that Cudi here is at top form, but the quality of the actual music varies tremendously. Nas’s NASIR release has been marred with controversy due to the domestic abuse accusations by ex-wife Kelis; the record’s quality has also been called into question.
KTSE will manage to end the month on a positive bookend, showing that, through turmoil and surprises, Teyana’s release cannot be budged.
This set of circumstances is ideal for Teyana’s KTSE to change the set narrative. If it’s a knockout, it’ll be seen as the savior of the seven-track album structure, and G.O.O.D Music’s legacy. Of all of the anticipated albums, hers seemed to fly mostly under the radar due to lack of hype surrounding it. Pusha T’s release ran in tandem with a war of words with Drake, while Kanye West’s disparaging and disappointing comments on slavery and politics, as well as a documented mental health problem, coincided with both ye and Kids See Ghosts. Nas’ release wasn’t completely derailed but was impacted by the alleged domestic abuse allegations of ex-wife Kelis. With the media’s coverage of these incidents often intersecting with the albums’ releases, Teyana’s polished lack of controversy in her life makes fans even more curious about her music.
At the very least, it has the potential to show why her music is necessary for today’s hip-hop and R&B climate. It’s high time for her to utilize her moment and flex her artistry for the world to consume. With the backing and production of of Kanye West, perceived as a “genius” by mainstream America, Teyana’s music should hit hard and fast when it matters most — now.