Album of the week: June 14 – Tems

June 14th 2024

Born in the Wild may be Tems’ debut album, but she’s no newcomer. Two strong EPs and a number of well placed features have already brought her near-household fame. Born in the Wild is, instead,the most complete offering of Tems as an artist so far; songwriter, producer and, of course, a once-in-a-lifetime voice.

It’s that voice which centers the record. Tems sings effortlessly but never without emotion, a deep intention stirred deep from her being. Impossible vocal ranges are plucked gracefully from thin air, wisps of nostalgia sprinkled like magic dust on the most yearning of lyrics. On the breathless anticipation of ‘Ready’ Tems draws each word, each line, out as if she’s exhuming every last bit of oxygen from her system, poured entirely into each heightened vocal enunciation.

Tems has often spoken of being frustratingly boxed in as simply an ‘afrobeats’ or ‘afro-pop’ artist; thus, Born in the Wild is a vividly wide musical offering, a jukebox for a new generation of Tems songs. There’s the heartbreakers: the hopeless flamenco guitar of ‘Freefall’ personifying the same broken relationship she sings of. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the teasing confidence of ‘Gangsta,’ the smoky, rimshot-driven brag of ‘Turn Me Up,’ and even nods towards muscly, Timbaland-like RnB on ‘T-Unit.’

And of course, that wistful, punch-drunk, dusk-on-a-warm-summer-nightness that she does better than anyone else. Lead singles ‘Me & U’ and ‘Love Me JeJe’ being prime examples – it’s musical serotonin fast-tracked straight to just that right spot in your brain, designed equally to move bodies and break open smiles. It’s the mark of a special artist, where one person’s experience becomes universality, that we’re in this together’ feeling that pop music can uniquely offer. On Born in the Wild, Tems offers just that.

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