Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Tems – Damages

Sounds like a bunch of us would like to hear more from this Nigerian singer-songwriter.


Juana Giaimo: When I listened to “Damages,” I immediately wanted to know more about Tems. Good for me because this song is part of her EP, For Broken Ears. It made me think that it’s been a while since a single made me feel so curious about an artist and that maybe it’s because singles are now an end in itself, instead of being the means to introduce listeners to a an album, or an EP in this case. In “Damages”, the production is subtle and the beat gives very warm vibes. Her voice is strong and heartfelt, but it can still be very playful (like when she rhymes several lines with “babe” and in the second verse she does the same with “right there,” both times creating a beautiful cadence). The fact that it lasts less than three minutes and has a smooth quiet ending (instead of a big passionate chorus), only makes me want more. 

Nortey Dowuona: Hollow, hanging chords are lifted by other synth strings, while Tems hangs each, bouncing on the soft, barely inflated drums, then tying the 40 layer bass around her neck, then setting it on the floor, to hang more chords, then settles and begins to carefully make a cape of it as she floats for a bit, pondering life.

Thomas Inskeep: A light spring breeze of an Afrobeats R&B record, one which portends summer (and potentially, bigger things) around the corner.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The trick that Tems pulls off here is key: the beat here leans towards dancehall midtempo grooves, artfully placed organ stabs giving it an off-kilter rhythm, but her vocal performance soars like she’s doing a Sade cover, magisterial and exasperated all at once. This friction drives “Damages” forward, communicating the tension and uncertainty at the heart of the song more effectively than any one lyric ever could. It’s the romance’s climax and the cool down afterwards all at once, a quiet storm enlivened by Tems’ skillful play with rhythm.

Alfred Soto: Serviceable vocal + mediocre trop-house beat = backyard pool jam for quarantining COVID suspects.

Edward Okulicz: “Damages” shows that a bit of trop can be made more than serviceable if you have a vocalist who has strength and presence. Not a big singer in the usual sense of the word, but she casts herself in a light where she seems massive. Rather than lulling into boredom, it gets out of the way of Tems, who grabs attention with emotion and throws enough fine melodies for five minutes in under three.

Vikram Joseph: Tems takes a deceptively simple dancehall-influenced track and paints it in wistful, wonderful colours. The cool, shimmering hook barely changes, but her vocal melodies blossom and unfurl into unexpected but effortless-sounding shapes. There’s a real tenderness to “Damages”, something that’s closer to resignation than sadness but which aches all the same. A special mention for her pronunciation of “baby”, which I can’t get enough of.

Reader average: [4] (2 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

One Response to “Tems – Damages”

  1. Nigerian music is so consistently good… I miss Temi Dollface though