Album Review: Teyana Taylor – ‘THE ALBUM’

Teyana Taylor has had one interesting saga of a music career. When she first appeared across our MTV screens in 2007 on an episode of ‘My Super Sweet 16,’ the then 16 year-old was signed to Pharrell’s Star Trak and poised to be the next big teen superstar. Then with false starts and the Jazze Pha-produced “Google Me” underperforming in 2008, Teyana moved on to acting and would eventually get back to music by appearing on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy before signing with his G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam in 2012. November 2014 saw the Harlem singer release her debut solo album VII, which had some good reviews but quickly came and went from the charts after debuting at number 19 on the Billboard 200. Then there was 2018’s K.T.S.E. A critically-acclaimed effort (even the legendary Elton John called it one of his favorites) released during Kanye’s “Wyoming Sessions” phase, Teyana’s second album consisting of just 8 tracks was treated poorly with samples not being cleared in time and false hopes of an extended version being released with more songs and the initial recorded versions of certain songs. 

Now in June 2020, Teyana is ready to keep her climb in music going with the release of her third album, simply titled THE ALBUM. With 23 songs in total, the title of the album may be a slight hint of shade at her previous album as many called it nothing more than a little mixtape, THE ALBUM actually finds Teyana’s footing in music solidified more than ever. The concept album is broken down in five sections that breaks downs each letter of the title: “Studio A” is the love songs; “Studio L” shows off her sexuality and bedroom bangers; “Studio B” is about self-worth; “Studio U” showcases her vulnerability; “Studio M” is the final victory lab.

Teyana kicks off the album with an intro that serves as a timeline between she and her husband, Iman Shumpert, from their engagement to the actual 911 call when she was giving birth to daughter, Junie, on the bathroom floor of their home. We hear the conversation of the dad-to-be with the 911 operator frightened under pressure to make sure the unexpected at-home birth goes  smooth. The beautiful moment then leads to Junie’s feature on “Come Back To Me” which also has a verse from Rick Ross. The family affair continues on “Wake Up Love” featuring her husband, where the couple announced they are expecting baby number two in the visual (although Little Junie spilled that tea on Tey’s IG Live a few weeks before). Seductive Teyana comes out to play on several cuts like the previously-released Kehlani-assisted single “Morning,” which got a new “live tour mix” treatment for the album version. 

With 14 years in the industry under her belt since choreographing moves for Beyoncé’s “Ring the Alarm” video in 2006, there should be no issue with Teyana pulling some heavyweight names to appear on the album. The legends are on deck on a few songs like Erykah Badu’s smooth delivery on “Lowkey,” which is a nod to Miss Badu’s 1997 gem “Next Lifetime.” Its no telling how long it took for this session the materialize given her dislike of time, Ms. Lauryn Hill shows up to provide inspirational keys to life on the uplifting “We Got Love.” “We gonna break the stigma up,” sing-raps Teyana on the feel good Kanye West-produced single that was initially meant for KTSE and then Ye’s own unreleased album Yahndi, performing it together on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in September 2018 and even shooting a music video.

Unlike the issues that somewhat plagued KTSE, sample clearances were cleared with no problems on THE ALBUM as majority of the songs have very familiar samples. “This is a Teyana Taylor exclusive, suckaaaas!” opens Missy Elliott on the  Timbaland-produced “Boomin’,” also featuring Future and samples Blaque’s debut single “808.” Missy gives us her singing side towards the end of the 90s flavored nostalgic track, having previously worked with Teyana back in 2009 for the Pharrell-produced “Put It On Ya” from the rapper’s unreleased Block Party album. “Ever Ever” sees Teyana back in her Lauryn Hill bag, which samples “The Sweetest Thing.” Previously-released single “How You Want It?” has the 90s Bad Boy vibes courtesy  of the Ma$e sample from “What You Want” and features Puff’s son, King Combs. Then there’s the Musiq Soulchild “Best Friend” sample on the track “Friends.”

THE ALBUM also sees Teyana dipping in other sounds that compliments her tone. Having a hand in co-producing the song with DJ Camper, the dreamy “1-800-One-Night” is like the 2020 “special hotline” commercials that used to air late night on television. The sounds also shift to the islands on the reggae-tinged records “Killa” featuring Davido and “Bad,” perfectly following up each other. The softer side of Mrs. Shumpert not really seen on her previous efforts are displayed on the emotional “Lose Each Other” and the soft sounds of “Try Again.”

Long albums with 20+ tracks usually are hard to follow and digest in an era where short and quick projects are the way to go nowadays. Clocking in at little over an hour and seventeen minutes, THE ALBUM sonically flows together even with the divided segments that make up the project. It’s clear Teyana had a mission to reclaim moments missing from her last album. She had more wiggle room to explore her different views with the additional assistance outside the G.O.O.D. Music camp with collaborators such as Bibi Bourelly, Eric Bellinger, Murda Beatz, Hitmaka and Nija Charles, just to name a few. This album has a vibe and ride of emotions any young adult can relate to on many occasions (expect to see quotes from “Wrong Bitch” plastered across social media soon). THE ALBUM has the singer, dancer, actress, business mogul, wife and mother more open and honest than ever. Teyana has always been locked in a place where she had to prove herself musically after so many hiccups. But with THE ALBUM, Teyana may have just proven herself to the masses after all. Consider this the re-introduction of Teyana Taylor.

THE ALBUM is now available on streaming services and for purchasing at digital music retailers via G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam.