With the fifth out of five GOOD Music seven song “albums,” K.T.S.E. (the initials stand for Keep That Same Energy Released) dropped on June 22nd, and Pusha T, whose own album was the first of the five, dubbing it the best of the bunch, it would be easy to go along with the assumption that Teyana Taylor kicks on the terrific release mostly because Kanye West is pushing her foot. But late in Teyana’s opening set for Jeremih last, the truth became opaque.
It was the penultimate song of her evening, and the penultimate song on the album, the brisk, if not indeed brusque, “Never Would Have Made It” -one of those great soul song summations of how a life would work -a Mary J type number, and Teyana promised us the long version. The band, that had spent much of the evening performing hardboiled but swampy sex songs, was down to the pianist playing keys, while Teyana, overwhelmed by emotion performing for her homegirls, was having trouble speaking to us. Teyana, only 27 years of age, was remembering her youth in Harlem, dancing, singing, riding the 3 Train, just a girl from the hood, who, even after her breakthrough on MTV’s “My Sweet Sixteen”, was just a local girl, was singing for her home crowd in nyc, and really, it was very moving. The song is much bigger than it appears to be on K.T.S.E., she brought out her mother Petunia and her young daughter (who sang a coupla bars for us), and the audience itself, who might as well have been brought out, sang along, “You already know all the words”,” she marveled. It made you think that in search of his own vision, maybe Kanye didn’t do well by the song, maybe it was as big a statement as Teyana could possibly make, for her daughter, for her mother, maybe even for her husband, hoops star Iman Sumpter -who I was sorry to see leave the Knicks.
Teyana is an r&b star about to reach the heights of her profession, even if the album didn’t break as big as it deserved to, You could place Teyana along with H.E.R., and SZA, all three chill r&b stars are good both in person and on record, all three have a skill, the skill of being personable and also star drenched -back in the day it was a Loretta Lynn type downhomeness, that is lost by the arrogant male R&B biggies. It is hard to choose between the three except, K.T.S.E. is a major statement album, even if it is Kanye who is making the statement, and song for song probably the best.
The set started a little rough, a slinky, hot, Southern-y take on “No Manners,” with her girl dancers all hips and pelvis and an undermic’d Teyana sinking like mud right into the way too loud bass. The fucking bass bounced off the walls at PlayStation and made my teeth rattle. You can’t blame the room’s acoustic, but you can blame the sound engineer, who didn’t right all wrongs til an insanely truncated to a verse and a chorus “Hurry”. But the performers were so strong, the vibe so chill, and the audience so in love with Teyana, that the show was still good in spit of itself. She segued into an aurally botched “Gonna Love Me” before the sound began to right itself.
Teyana, who raised controvery by losing her wig in Atlanta, didn’t even bother with it at all in New York, because she wanted to be really herself for her hometown crowd. It worked very well, the woman is a beauty and the wigs were unnecessary, as she stripped a red raincoat for bra and pants, and then for bra and panties, she performed set pieces that were still loose and sensual. It wasn’t the hard precision of a Janelle Monae or a Beyoncé, but a slinker, cooler, and wetter (literally, an indoor rainfall screen between songs during a strange move from song to song). If you go to a Bey or Solange show, everything is very Swiss, very on the beat, but Teyana is one of the girls in every way. She isn’t built for the intruding eyes of men but for the sensual sisterhood of sex with girls, a sexually fluid performance which found her bringing a girl out of the audience for one song (“I want her, I want her”) and seducing the woman in front of us, yet not the same sex of male viewed lesbianism, a sweatier, more intense, more abrogate sexiness.
Teyana recorded K.T.S.E in January 2018 and waited SIX MONTHS for Kanye to release it, that’s pretty fucking wild in this age of fast turnover, and while I more than appreciate the finished product, which was both thin and fat at the same time, I’m not sure if she wouldn’t have been better served by an EDM guy, a Calvin Harris, a Pharrell -someone who could expand the songs for her, to, in effect, give songs that can breathe room to breath, on stage the songs are expansive, on record they are compact, even as the sound was fucking shit up yesterday. When she settles into the set, a run from a spectacular “Issues/Hold On” to “WTP’ to “Never Would Have Made It” to “Rose In Harlem,” Teyana has turned the concept of her sexuality, her family, Harlem, and us, inside out. Everything clicked so well for the final 25 minutes that you almost want to warn her to fix the sound at the start. These are all songs I enjoyed on the album, but I enjoyed “Hold On,” for one, so much more live. Teyana walked it somewhere, like a past history and a magic act steadily now, the heartache of VII released in love. Teyana doesn’t do vulnerability (no, not even on “Never Would Have Made It”), her voice is too strong, -she is not Mary J either, she is neither politicized, aerobicized (though she is a fine dancer) not a victim of men, not a victim of her race, her love and her friendship keeps her safe, her sexuality is a gift, she worked hard, got a little lucky, had some talent, and waited her turn and some ten years later this is her moment, any second here, she is just gonna get real big.
I haven’t written about Teyana’s reality show with her husband, or her movies, it’s not my style, though given the deep affection the audience had for her, I assume it is worth a look. I took a peek at “My Super Sweet Sixteen” where she looked exactly the same only younger. her audience were the least racially diverse since Carrie Underwood at Rooftop At Pier 17, if not indeed Charlie Wilson at Barclay Center, still it was LGBTQ friendly in the extreme.
Teyana closed with “Rose In Harlem” and somewhere between the concrete setting of upper Manhattan, and the flowering of love on 125th Street, Teyana found her audience and her audience found her.
weaving a fairy tale for us to get lost in
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1973 (Volume 5, Number 2)
“I don’t consider David (Bowie) to be even remotely big enough to be any competition.”
an old school New York feel
oedipal vulnerable and blue collar visceral
An emotional song with Miya’s acrobatic and vulnerable vocals
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – May 1973 (Volume 4, Number 12)
From Robert Johnson to the Ramones – what a life!
one of the great top tens of the 2020
will mark their return to the road in early February, 2023 with a string of to-be-announced US arena dates
enjoyable and soulful romp
another full day of music