Ayra Starr unveiled her first effort of the year, “Sability”. As its name suggests it’s an extension of last year’s “Rush”, blowing up the very first word of that song into a personal franchise. The lines of connection run deeper than just the nominal, though, and only a few listens reveals she intends to remain firmly on the Nigerian Pop channel, priotising rhyme sequence and a banging beat over lyricism and purpose, perhaps due to the continual influence of their shared songwriter, Mbryo.
It is a tested and trusted formula, this imbalanced scale of preference that views music primarily as fuel for the dance floor. Ayra and her team would however be surprised to realise that, the night before her release, the Nigerian audience on Twitter had apparently decided to reshape priorities, and every song now has to clear a lyrical hurdle before it can be enjoyed. Or, for an easier explanation to believe, she is being singled out for disproportionately harsh criticism of her artistry.
Her writing does her no favours here—every line of the blistering hook holds a barely tangible connection to the previous one—but even that scattered drive ramps her to an unmissable message. She is in her moment, she is the “Sabi girl”, a phrase strewn together from Pidgin and English languages that escapes a proper definition whilst remaining easily understandable. For her chorus she interpolates Awilo Longomba’s “Coupé Bibamba”, neatly swapping out his name with hers, and it ties up her original storyline of self-belief in a neat bow.
On previous projects, her eponymous EP and her debut album, 19 and Dangerous, she drew from a much wider and deeper pool in all respects. She touched on RnB, Soul and Pop sounds, with which she depicted young love and heartbreak in its different stages and forms (“Lonely”, “Beggie Beggie”, “Karma”, “Snitch”), confronted growing up and her impending queenship (“Cast”, “Bridgertn”), and tackled head-on the oft-overlooked topic of teen drug abuse (“DITR”, “Toxic”).
The presence of these projects in her discography immediately negates any doubts over her ability to confront bigger subjects, and exposes her choice to create catchy, easy-to-chorus singles this time to simply be an artistic and commercial decision.
“Sability” is the third installment in a series of releases in which she underlines her talent while plotting the next stage of world domination. “Bloody Samaritan” warned off Vibe Killers, as she assured them that her future was in her own hands, and she was going to push it to the absolute peak—”Everything I desire I go receive”.
“Rush” appeared a year after but that time interval only strengthened her self-belief, so that future tense was replaced with present when she described her career—”E dey rush well well, E be much”, she sang, comparing the volume of her God-given wins to a gushing tap.
So through multiple releases, her message remains consistently clear, and she will not be retracting it. In the future though, a finer balance between lyricism and danceability will need to be sought and maintained—they are, after all, not mutually exclusive concepts, and the high bar she has set for herself in previous releases may mean she is held to a higher standard than other Nigerian popstars.
Until then, “Sability” remains unbelievably addictive in its simplicity, and a combination of the vibrant production it features, and the ease with which she glides on it, should secure it as another successful outing for Nigeria’s pop princess, even if not the most original one.