Teyana Taylor has been more or less a public figure for seven years now, beginning with her appearance on the former TV sensation that was MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. Teyana was a standout brat, no easy feat given that show’s format. It didn’t help that the bravado from her TV debut carried over to her debut single, the Jazze Pha-produced “Google Me,” which was basically a little over three minutes of musical masturbation. The song tanked and ultimately became somewhat of a Scarlet Letter for Teyana as audiences have spent years antagonizing the Harlem native with the same questions: “Who are you?” and “What do you do again?”
Teyana has since tried to do her part to convince audiences of her worth as an artist, starting with the mixtape The Miseducation of Teyana Taylor. It was a solid release, but mostly referential as the title was a clear nod to Lauryn Hill and homage to Brandy everywhere else.
With VII, the now 23-year-old Teyana Taylor has proven the following: She has a point of view, a sound, and as most of the tracks illustrate, a mood. The opening track, “Outta My League (Interlude),” makes it clear that Teyana is hoping to display a softer side—the one we missed when she was making headlines for allegedly fighting directors and strippers or Twitter beefing with Rihanna. No matter what she gives when she’s off duty, in song Teyana Taylor is just like many people her age: wanting to be loved, yearning to be touched, and longing to be appreciated.
Teyana has come a long way as a singer. She sings with far more confidence than she did a few years ago and conveys vulnerability sweetly even if the actual lyric is especially aggressive a la “The last nigga broke my heart, you’ll probably break it, too” on “Broken Hearted Girl” featuring Fabolous.
She has a point of view, a sound, and as most of the tracks illustrate, a mood.
When her aggression is more pronounced, it works just as wonderfully. It’s evident in VII’s first single, “Maybe,” which should be a much bigger song than it appears to be. And though Chris Brown may still be a public relations nightmare, he remains a radio staple. Now that we’re in the midst of “cuffing season,” I would advise Teyana to consider releasing her duet with Breezy, “Do Not Disturb.”
There are other “I’m horny as hell”-themed tracks, like “Dreams,” though the album version doesn’t quite work as well as the original, “Dreams of Fucking a R&B Bitch.” “Dreams” is the singer-songwriter’s equivalent of “just let me put the tip in.” I don’t know what spurred this more sanitized final version, but in the future, if you’re going to go there, just go there.
Speaking of sex, VII could have used a few more of those instead of ballads like “Sorry” and “Business.” I get the urge to have balance, but the first half of the album handles it better than the second.
Overall, VII makes for an impressive debut, though it remains to be seen whether or not audiences are willing to give her a real chance. Back in 2012, Teyana was asked about her critics and explained, “They see the glory, but don’t know the story. When there’s not music being put out or you’re not moving, they automatically blame it on you, like, you’re not doing anything.” With VII, Teyana Taylor has finally done something, and it’s worthy of our attention.