Though she doesn’t break new ground, Teyana Taylor delivers an enjoyable contemporary R&B album capturing the ups and downs of love.
"So I’m blocking your calls / pretty sure I heard it all before." Aye yai yai. It’s exactly how it sounds, the response of a lover clearly scorned. The lyrics, hailing from "In The Air" represent the ‘heartbreak’ element of contemporary R&B singer Teyana Taylor’s debut, VII. In addition to entailing the degraded relationship, VII also entails sultriness and sexiness, detailing the physical and emotional highs of love (or apparent love). From the cool production to poised vocal performances from Taylor, VII is a sound effort overall, though unfortunately, there is a cloud of underrated-ness.
Following soulful introductory interlude "Outta My League", "Just Different" exemplifies the laid-back, modern R&B vibe that characterizes VII as a whole. It doesn’t remains static, but "Outta My League" lacks a powerful punch to make it hit the listener more forcefully. As it is, there’s a hypnotic quality, accentuated by the backdrop underlying it. On “Request,” Taylor is naughty, but never crosses the line. Sex becomes synonymous with the “request”, but Taylor never overindulges in lustfulness with profane, explicit description. On the similarly pleasing "Do Not Disturb", Taylor contrasts with greater overtness, singing, "He biting my neck with my legs in the air / tell me you love me then pull on my hair." Chris Brown guests, playing into salaciousness: "She love it when I eat it, she making a meal / baby girl screaming / I give her the pillow so no one could hear."
On "Broken Hearted Girl", sex continues to drive Taylor, as she denounces dating and roses in favor of touching. Fabolous provides extra reinforcement, going right for the kill: "Look you need to stop playing with yourself / like I ain’t who you playing when you playing with yourself." Reggae-tinged number, "Put Your Love On" plays to personal preference. Those who love reggae-infusion outside of reggae itself may dig it, while others will proclaim it a miss. Ultimately, "Put Your Love On" lacks the magic of the best.
On "Maybe", Taylor just can’t figure what it is that is ("Maybe it’s the liquor / maybe it’s the song…don’t know what it is, maybe I’m in love"). Again buying into a swagger-laden, sultry vocal approach, it isn’t until the hook she pushes more. Pusha T perfectly complements Taylor’s questioning himself, "Who she seeing?" "Dreams" is steamy, finding Taylor keeping it real. Lines like "Dreams of sleeping with a R&B chick, B chick / I heard your little bars about my cleavage" dominate, where Taylor portrays herself as the ultimate fantasy.
On "Sorry" Taylor reflects back on a breakup, but she approaches it in the regards that he’s the loser and she’s rose above the pain. Matching the depth of emotion, "Sorry" is slow, heartfelt, and somewhat indulgent. Coming off a bit boring and too drawn out, Taylor’s overall intentions and genuineness are perceptible. "Business" proves to be stronger, despite a slow tempo. Giving "Business" more push is the presence of anchoring drums and bass line. Showcasing feistiness, Taylor confidently sings, "Don’t ask me how was the sex / that’s between me, my man, and our bed / plus I know how you hos get / I ain’t tryna lose a friend telling you how my man do it the best."
VII closes with a bang on "In The Air", which is bad news from the beginning: "Here we are going back at it again / are you serious?" Taylor isn’t referencing the business of the former cut, but rather details the relationship gone awry. Ultimately, Taylor throws up her middle fingers to love and any dude who screws her over. The deluxe edition of VII adds two tracks, full versions of interludes "Outta My League" and "It Could Just Be Love".
Ultimately, VII is a fine contemporary R&B album that captures the ups and downs of love. It doesn’t break new ground in the least, but continues to make this tried-and-true subject matter of R&B interesting and as always, relatable. Arguably, the biggest con of VII may be its lax promotion and the fact Taylor isn’t a household name yet. VII is an album that grows more magical with each listen.