Ayra Starr on her upcoming sophomore album, ‘The Year I Turned 21’

Ayra Starr. Picture: Instagram

Ayra Starr. Picture: Instagram

Published May 31, 2024


Nigerian superstar Ayra Starr joined Apple Music 1 host Nandi Madida to chat about her sophomore album, “The Year I Turned 21”, which is set for release on Friday, May 31.

“The Year I Turned 21” is an amalgamation of sounds from African and non-African genres. It also has solo dance tracks and soulful ballads.

The 15-track studio album features solid collaborations from American R&B singer Givēon, Jamaican singer Rvssian, Puerto Rican rapper Rauw Alejandro and Nigerian singer Asake, among others.

During the conversation with Madida, Starr said that she wanted to take the album on a path that would surprise people.

“I always try to surprise even myself, with my moves, to be honest. It can be annoying, because everybody’s like, ‘Ayra, we expect you to go this way’, but I get bored very easily, and I hate being perceived in a way that people think they know my next move. It’s chess for me, I always want to try something different.”

Talking about the single “Goodbye (Warm Up)”, featuring Asake, which was released in April, she said: “I was in the studio with (producer) P2J. He was like, ‘I have this song, I don’t know if you’re going to like it’, because he’d had it for a long time and he (wasn’t) sure about it.

“Every time I hear somebody say they’re not sure about a song, I just automatically love the song, because it feels like a challenge – if you don't like it, I’m going to make you love this song.”

She added that she was obsessed with the song.

“I remember I travelled to Zimbabwe the next day, and I was playing it everywhere. Everywhere I went, I was listening to it. This was even before Asake’s verse. Asake’s verse made it so perfect.”

The song has been well received since its debut. In the song, Starr expresses her empowerment and independence after ending a relationship.

She conveys a sense of self-assurance, independence and readiness to move from a past relationship by setting boundaries and avoiding manipulations by her ex.

About her favourite track on the album, “Woman Commando”, she said “The energy of it – it feels influenced by every African genre I grew up listening to.

“I remember when I first made this song in the studio, I was like, ‘I want two other girls on this song, because I don’t want to be the only one saying ‘Woman Commando’. I want three young women just killing it.”

Starr went on to add Anitta and Coco Jones’s voice to the song.

“Coco sent me a verse in a week and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She held her own so much. She was just so amazing on that track.

“Anitta was the last verse of the album to come in. When it came in I was like, ‘Thank god, guys. I’ve blown! I’ve made it’.”

Meanwhile, she called Givēon’s verse on the track, “Last Heartbreak Song”, “perfect”.

“I feel like Givēon’s verse – I couldn’t have got a more perfect verse. When I heard it, I was crying. I was in the car and I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. I had to re-record my verse, because he ate too much!”