As an artist who has consistently defined her musical expression through emotion, reflection and love, it’s no wonder why Ayo’s latest record is a powerful account that showcases the artists’ recent challenges through gripping imagery, impeccable songwriting and passionate vocals that deliver a masterful composition to her listeners.
When asked to write a preview of Ayo’s fifth studio album, ahead of the record’s release party at New York City’s, DROM, on Wednesday, I was relatively excited based on Ayo’s extensive reach in the independent music scene over the past decade. With over 1.5 million records sold in 40 countries, Ayo’s versatility in her music, empathy towards each composition and gentle, yet harrowing nature of her voice details Ayo’s complex and focused approach towards her artistry.
In her latest self-titled album, “Ayo,” the Brooklyn-based artist concocts a blend of indie soul and contemporary folk, with a touch of hip-hop elements simmered in reggae. The expansive reach of her musical repertoire in these genres provides a level of versatility that offers a license to embellish in the sounds of Baduism, while also providing a firm contrast to the lyricism of Lauryn Hill – all while crafting a sound of her own that combines retro-pop-soul with the refine African percussions and the vivid storytelling of reggae folk.
Born to a Nigerian father and Romani mother in Cologne, Germany, Ayo was raised on the musical influences of American soul, reggae and Afro-beats that spawned her studying the violin, piano and guitar. At 21 years of age, Ayo re-located to London, diving her time between Paris and New York City on the way to earning her first opening act for Omar and Cody Chesnutt. Ayo’s debut album, “Joyful,” hit Top 10 in four countries, performing with Babyface, winning prestigious European Music Awards and even appearing on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” in the United States.
Her musical approach, rich with honesty, sentiment and passion, releases a mist of positivity and emotion on each record of “Ayo,” guiding audiences to embrace their feelings and reflections on what’s been gained and lost. We see these components in songs such as “Nothing,” “Why” and “I Pray” which showcases Ayo’s vulnerability over these past five years with personal and career challenges.
On “Nothing,” Ayo offers us a reggae-soul inspired perspective on the material things in her life that she believed would make her feel better about herself, all while feeling empty as she realizes the void is just a temporary means of satisfaction. Composed over the African kalimba (strings) and loosely affirmed Afro-percussions, “Why” provides a heartfelt and revealing account on Ayo’s personal issues with her father and the stubbornness and grudges held within their relationships. Ayo’s enduring spirit on the recent challenges of her life, written over gently bright keys and a calming beats, are boldly displayed on “I Pray” as she reaches towards her spirituality for help during a possible career-ending situation.