Teyana Taylor, “The Album”

Teyana Taylor
The Album
G.O.O.D. MUSIC/DEF JAM
7/10

Rather than let her new full-length recording languish as part of G.O.O.D. CEO Kanye West’s larger vision (as did her good, gold-selling K.T.S.E. of 2018), R&B multi-hyphenate Teyana Taylor made her own way and dropped The Album on the historically important and introspective Juneteenth holiday, letting loose with a long-ass record (just under eighty minutes) that portrayed what I’m guessing is her breadth of expression.

From a cover portraying Taylor as a Grace Jones-esque superwoman to her winnowing ruminations on family (including husband Iman Shumpert’s marriage proposal), romance and existential delights, The Album is her Old and New Testament combined. The joy of making and having babies—the sensualistic soul of “Mornin’” (with Kehlani) and “Wake Up Love”—and the wiliness of seduction and temptation on “Lowkey” (Erykah Badu’s “Next Lifetime” featuring Badu herself) give The Album its loving, yearning heart. “Boomin’,” too, and its noted Blaque inspiration (to say nothing of the mellow, moody Guy-interpolating “Let’s Build”) is positivist, lush, classic R&B with a ’90s revisionist twist. 

To those aching trad melodies and sleek, complex arrangements, Taylor—an underrated vocalist—brings her nuanced whisper to a screaming baritone, a handsome instrument all on its own. Things get even more dramatic when she does find grief and disgust with the pleading, poking, and prodding of “Concrete” and “Still.” When she plies her coo-then-soar to dancehall grooves, Afro-pop (“Killa”), or futurist electro-soul on  DJ Camper–produced “1-800-ONE-NITE,” she creates her own powerful brand of vocal uplift in a way that emulates the dynamics of consensual, playful sexuality in a fashion that’s rare, if not fresh.

Sometimes, you do wish that The Album was a little shorter, or better edited with its plateaus and extended vibes—too many up-tempo tracks in a row, then too many ballads—but, overall, Teyana Taylor has found new expressionism in R&B traditions you didn’t think were possible or probable. That’s what makes her a superwoman.

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