• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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R&B to highlife: The evolution of Ayra Starr

Headies 2022: Ayra Starr tops female artists with 8 nominations

Nigerian Afrobeats star Ayra Starr today released her second album titled “The Year I Turned 21,” in which she broke away from the sound she had become known for.

The tracklist features 14 songs and a mix of local and international artists. Industry players say the new album signals a deliberate evolution of Starr’s sound from her debut album and a move to expand her international fanbase.

Starr, who turns 21 in June, has a unique naming convention for her albums, titling them after her age at the time of release. Her debut album, 19 & Dangerous, came out in 2021 when she was 19.
Ayra Starr - 19 & Dangerous


While her previous album did not feature any international artists, the deluxe version included Kelly Rowland on the remix of the hit song ‘Bloody Samaritan’. In contrast, The Year I Turn 21 showcases Starr’s global ambition with a lineup of international collaborations.

American singers Coco Jones and Giveon are included to attract American listeners, while Brazilian artists Aniita, Rvssian and Rauw Alejandro seem to target South American fans.

Back home in Nigeria, Afrobeats stars Asake and Seyi Vibez share the spotlight alongside Milar, Starr’s younger brother. This mix reflects her desire to explore different subgenres within Afrobeats while maintaining connections with the Nigerian music scene.

On May 22nd, 2024, Spotify hosted a listening party for The Year I Turned 21, inviting guests from across the Nigerian music industry. The event showcased Starr’s artistic evolution, highlighting a broader soundscape incorporating contemporary Afrobeats, Latino rhythms, and Yoruba Highlife.

Starr retains her signature AfroRnB sound in tracks like ‘21’, ‘Lagos Love Story’, ‘Woman Commando’, and ‘Last Heartbreak Song’. The already-released ‘Commas’ continues its global run and has been nominated for Viewer’s Choice Award at the 2024 BET Awards.

Collaborations with Coco Jones and Giveon highlight her confidence in reaching a global audience. This ambition is further emphasised by ‘Santa’ featuring Rvssian and Rauw Alejandro, which nods to the Latino market. Highlighting her Nigerian roots, ‘Orun’ is a Yoruba Highlife track, intended, in Starr’s words, “to introduce the world to where she’s from and share deeper African sounds.”

Starr’s exploration extends into contemporary Afrobeats with tracks like ‘Bad Vibes’ featuring Seyi Vibez and Asake. She also pays homage to her label boss, Don Jazzy, with ‘Jazzy Song’, produced by P.Priime. This track interpolates Wande Coal’s ‘You Bad’, a past hit produced by Jazzy himself.

Ayra Starr
Ayra Starr, a music artist.

The buzz surrounding The Year I Turned 21 is undeniable. According to Album Talks, the album has already surpassed 200 million streams on Spotify, making it the first project of 2024 to achieve this feat before its official release.

Data from Spotify further reveals that Ayra Starr has a strong hold on young adult listeners. In the last 28 days, 20 percent of her listeners were between 18 and 22 years old, and another 30 percent were in the 23-27 age group. Interestingly, her audience leans slightly male, with 52 percent male and 44 percent female listeners.

This unprecedented streaming activity indicates strong interest from fans both locally and globally. With the official release today, May 31st, 2024, music insiders who attended the listening party are already predicting the album to be a contender for the best of 2024.