Friday, June 7th, 2024

Ayra Starr ft. Seyi Vibez – Bad Vibes

We mostly vibe with this…

Ayra Starr ft. Seyi Vibez - Bad Vibes

Kayla Beardslee: One of the greatest casualties of TSJ pausing coverage in fall 2022 was us not being able to review Ayra Starr’s luminous breakout single “Rush” and give it the [10]s it deserves. Ayra is only 21, but her voice has a depth and wisdom beyond her years that imbues her music with a sense of warmth, purpose, and true star quality. “Bad Vibes” doesn’t match the lofty heights of “Rush,” and I prefer “Commas” among the singles off her new album, but it’s really an embarrassment of riches — I’ve heard a lot of Ayra Starr songs, and not a single one of them has been bad.

Julian Axelrod: Ayra Starr’s new album The Year I Turned 21 features a stacked guest list typical of any buzzy artist’s sophomore effort, from Asake to Giveon to Coco Jones. So it’s telling that the teaser singles were solo highlight “Commas” and “Bad Vibes,” a collaboration with fellow Afrobeats up-and-comer Seyi Vibez, who has a tenth of his host’s monthly listeners on Spotify. This time, Ayra’s betting on herself: her songwriting, her voice, and her eye for talent. The sidewinding chanted chorus gives the track enough heft to counterbalance its airy vibe. But the backing choir nearly overpowers Ayra’s agile runs, and by the time you get through two spins of the hook and a totally fine Seyi verse, Ayra’s bridge almost feels like a feature on her own song. It’s also the highlight, mixing a weary flow with delightfully oblique turns of phrase (“If something’s coming, I’ll see it through my lashes”) that prove she’s shrewd enough to land a hit without relying on star power. But by the end of the song, I still don’t fully understand Starr’s power.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Somehow more of an Asake track than the one that actually features him, “Bad Vibes” is mostly interesting because of the group chants and melancholy strings. There’s not much underneath all this, which means I’m mostly stuck thinking about how everything that made Asake enthralling has been reduced to pure vibes here, which was also my impression of Seyi Vibez’s album last year. 

Nortey Dowuona: Ayra’s continued success does prompt me to say that the homie ran background vocals for her on tour, and you should ask for her to do so too. Would’ve been a better use of Seyi Vibez too, tbh.

Ian Mathers: Both named performers do a fine job, but honestly the whole thing could have been the massed group vocals (yes, including doing the currently solo parts) and I’d be just as happy, if not happier.

Jonathan Bradley: Ayra Starr brings an American flow to these Nigerian beats, sounding reminiscent of Future or Young Thug as she raps “I’m leading a life that can clean me from my past shit/Burn all this money and leave it in my ashes.” It forms an oddly familiar anchor for a tune that floats otherwise off into a blissful transcendence. The choir massed on the hook resists those who might throw bad vibes; I can’t imagine negativity having any chance of finding a foothold on a beat so liquid, so cleansing.

Taylor Alatorre: I’ve always found the “good vibes only” type of song to be superfluous at best and nauseating at worst, not least because it points to a trend of younger generations speaking like the marketers who are paid well to capture them (see also phrases like “FOMO” and “life hack,” thankfully neither of which is a pop trope). “Bad Vibes” guards against this tendency by aiming not to conjure positivity out of nothing, but rather to ward off the negative feelings and events that it knows are always skulking nearby. “I need my enemies deceased” sits a bit uneasily next to the multiple appeals for God’s heavenly favor, but Ayra Starr says it with such lightness in her voice that it feels like she’s requesting it as a favor to them. Nothing wrong with raising the stakes of an otherwise inconsequential party song to Old Testament levels.

Katherine St. Asaph: Well, the title’s half accurate.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Contrary-wise, the vibe here is quite good — especially in the interchange between the chanted, monolithic choir of the hook and the verses, where Ayra Starr and Seyi Vibez deftly trade boasts. They both sound so cool; obviously trying quite hard in the way of early twentysomethings since time immemorial, but here their effort enhances the performance rather than detract from it: by the end, I was fully bought into the experience.

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