Teyana Taylor: K.T.S.E.

The final installment of Kanye West’s “Wyoming Albums,” a series of brief records all blessed by the hand of the legendary producer, comes from one of the more obscure members of the G.O.O.D Music camp. Teyana Taylor, also known as the cat-woman from West’s “Fade” video, has always been rather under the radar, a fact she herself acknowledges on “A Rose in Harlem.” Despite another project already under her belt, the singer’s low profile meant that this album was her golden opportunity to demonstrate her artistry. Taylor seems fully aware of this, and her attempts to live up to her potential result in an album that, while showcasing her vocal talent, often overindulges, clipping her wings to keep her from soaring.

K.T.S.E begins to take flight from the instant Taylor’s voice begins to gently pour in like honey into tea. Taylor’s consonance on “No Manners,” as well the rich vocal samples, create this smooth slide into the sensual aura of the album. From this point until “3Way,” K.T.S.E. rides on a sonic wave of tranquil lust and passion, coming across as both elegant and fiery. The mellow guitar samples across that stretch of the album play beautifully with Taylor’s lifting vocals. Particularly, “Issues / Hold On” is the embodiment of what makes Teyana Taylor special. Not only does it include the aforementioned features, but the synth blasts incorporated into the instrumental add an extra layer of bliss. Furthermore, the lyrics here are some of the best on the album, keeping it personal with the story of a relationship that falters as a result of her past.

However, the Icarian fall is when Taylor dedicates herself so much to this sensual aesthetic that it ruins the immersive quality of the album. There’s no better example of this than “Hurry.” “Hurry,” with it’s gentle groove and prominent percussion, is a song so sweet and pretty that it manages to rise above a lackluster Kanye West verse. What it cannot rise above, however, is the moans Taylor throws in for added sexual atmosphere. The song had already created a sexual mood, but adding the moans in was just too over the top, ruining what could had been a great song. Also, there’s “WTP.” There’s nothing wrong with making a song about sex, but when a phrase is hammered down your ear canal all the sexual magnetism fades. The song becomes unlistenable because of that sample.

As a result, it becomes hard to shake the feeling that K.T.S.E could have been better, if not at least trimmed of a little fat. Listening to the confidence of Taylor’s voice when she raps on “A Rose in Harlem,” one asks why she didn’t implement this more across the album. That being said, “A Rose in Harlem,” while a great song, also feels a bit out of place in an album so focused on conveying a sense of romance and sexual magnetism. This unbalances the album in a way that isn’t necessarily fatal, but which throws the listener off a little and, in turn, skews immersion.

That aside, Teyana Taylor shows a great deal of potential which this album only just begins to demonstrate. Taylor not only harnesses her sexuality in a way that makes for great R&B, but she also has a voice that could stand out more amongst contemporaries like SZA if she continues this pattern of range and portamento. Again, it cannot be understated how well Taylor can convey these more sexual themes through sound, both through her ear for instrumentals and her voice. Her next record is one that should be met with high hopes, because K.T.S.E has flaws which could easily be overcome. If you doubt her, listen to the way she sings “my life with you” in “Gonna Love Me.” The sleekness of her singing this leaves me with the impression that Teyana Taylor is a name to look out for.

Rating: 7.0/10

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