Ayra Starr is arguably the most interesting breakout star the Nigerian music scene had seen in the last 5 years. First thought of as a replacement for new school Queen, Tems, her brand has at once grown and narrowed to include the vast and largely untapped potential of a Gen Z audience. With songwriting credits from her brother (operating in an almost Finneas-like capacity), Ayra Starr is Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande all wrapped into one. She definitely tells as much on this album.
Album opener, “Cast” is perhaps the most important song on this album. It is the soul of the record, embodying the new age, “no regrets” stance of most young people. The hook’s mantra “If I cast, yeah I cast… anything wey wan sup go sup…” is begging for TikTok use. In terms of thematic execution, it is simply one of the best songs on the record.
“Fashion Killer” is an ode to slay culture. The song title is pretty apt if a little on-the-nose. It is a mid-tempo record with Wizkid-esque production and impressive background vocals from Starr. Without tapping too deeply into the comparisons, Tems would feel right at home on this track.
“Lonely” is one of the more commercial songs on the album. It is a simple plaintive song set on a groovy beat. The line “I be human being oh” and song title “Lonely”, betrays a sadness I would have loved to see explored a little more. It would’ve been a great opportunity to go deeper into teen angst and loneliness. Perhaps she thought to go the less followed route by fitting a sad theme into a catchy song. She succeeds in this regard and crafts a single ready bop. Besides, there are sad tunes elsewhere in the album.
“Snitch” warns enemies of her “fuck you up” abilities. It is a showcase of Starr’s ability to flow while making a good R&B record. Foushee delivers effortlessly as well. Though I don’t understand the song’s relationship with its title, it’s a pretty good song in all, regardless.
Enter “Toxic”, the song that led to her discovery. It’s apparent that the song itself is strong. Perhaps one of the strongest here. It explores loneliness and drug use. The real question is whether the production matches the song. From an objective perspective, it does. But the lyrics, vocals and viral nature of the song make the listener wonder what could’ve been if there was more production. Don Jazzy resists this temptation and gives the song what’s necessary. It proves a risky but wise choice.
“In Between” is the song for lamentation. One imagines a dark, smoke-filled room filled with regret, self-pity and the song playing in the background. It’s a bull’s eye for its targeted audience. I wouldn’t recommend you put it on replay. It seems designed to keep you wallowing in your depression.
A fan favourite, “Beggie Beggie” is again another groovy but catchy jam. With Ckay’s assistance, they trace the breakdown of a failing relationship in the simplest way possible. The melodic line “Ewo, Ewo, Ewo kilode oh“, is the most beautiful thing on the record.
“Karma” is tricky. Its melody isn’t very strong until the bridge, so it gives filler vibes. However, it’s an interesting metaphor, as she sings to “Karma” calling it “a good lover”. I believe this is of course a reference to the consistency of Karma in rewarding her exes. For its thematic quality, I love it.
Lead single, “Bloody Samaritan”, isn’t so much lyrically stunning as it is commercial. A quick cash-in to the amapiano craze, the stars of this song are the Rema-esque melodies and again, Starr’s background vocals. It’s a good song. Upbeat and serviceable.
“Bridgertn”, is the most attention-grabbing song on the record right off the bat. Its production somehow evokes the classical elegance of the hit series while retaining a modern swing. Starr and her writers take full advantage and deliver an anthem, cut from the same cloth as Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings”. It is a trap-laced celebration of the bad bitch. The best song on the record and a triumph, for both Starr and Andre Vibes (in what is proving to be a great year for him so far).
Closer, “Amin” strictly follows the blueprint of a Nigerian album closer. It is slow, reflective and almost directly addressed to the fans. It is my least favourite track on the record, but it does its work summarily.
Many have called this album “Generational”. As far as I’m concerned, that is yet to be seen. One thing is certain, however. With 19 & Dangerous, Ayra Starr presents a potential never before seen and largely untapped. I sense that this is just the beginning.