It’s becoming more and more common that artists who have traditionally been behind the studio desk or name-checked on co-writing credits have stepped out on their own for a slice of the spotlight. Benny Blanco started showing the world exactly how he had penned or produced so many chart-topping hits (think Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl, 3OH!3’s Don’t Touch Me, Major Lazer’s Cold Water and Ed Sheeran’s Castle On The Hill) when he dropped Eastside with Halsey and Khalid last year, which has consistently sat at the pointy end of the charts for nine months.
Tayla Parx is another such identity – with co-writing credits on songs like Panic! At The Disco’s High Hopes, Ariana Grande’s thank u, next and 7 Rings, as well as working with artists like Janelle Monae, Khalid, Normani, The Presets, Anderson .Paak and The Internet, now the fuss is all about the 25-year-old Texan and rightly so. Tayla has always been immersed in the entertainment world, even acting as Little Inez in 2007's Hairspray film, but started debuting solo songs back in 2015.
Her debut album, We Need To Talk, drops today and yeah, we need to talk about how good it is. It’s full of the honest songwriting, pop groove and sparkly production we loved about Ariana’s Sweetener and thank u, next, while also flipping the script on how R&B, pop or soul needs to sound like in 2019. It’s all of the above and also none of the above – a tropical punch spiked with good vibes, sad nights and topped with a cocktail umbrella of maturity, treading the journey between a new love and its eventual end.
Opener and single I Want You starts with essences of Ariana’s NASA (which, yes, she co-wrote) and it's a confident start that invites us into Tayla’s vivid imagination. Slow Dancing and Me Vs Us, both singles we’d already heard, are sleek pop tunes without being TOO much - the latter even has ‘80s synth throwbacks that concocts images of dancing in your childhood bedroom in a haze of puppy love and pouring your heart out into a pink diary with lock and key.
Afraid To Fall brings us into 2019 sampling Apple’s iconic *floop* iMessage text sounds, while Happy Birthday (Interlude) is probably the coolest version of the famous song around. It might even save you from looking around awkwardly when people are singing it to you.
Title track We Need To Talk seems to take pieces from the UK grime scene, leaving behind the bubbly pop production to make way for a grittier beat – it sits beneath Tayla’s playful vocals just right. We Need To Talk is track 8 of 15 and actually marks a distinct turning point on the album. From here, it’s like the relationship isn’t what it seems. There are text messages left on read, awkward interactions, serious sitdown conversations to ask where you stand, insecurities. The flushed cheeks and cute selfies of the first half of the album are long gone, making way for a darker, sadder sound.
Disconnected, Read Your Mind and Rebound pound through one after the other and all feature rappers: Cautious Clay, DUCKWRTH and Joey Bada$$ respectively. Tayla asks, “Baby if you’re gonna love me, hurry and love me / So I know I’m not leaving / And baby if you’re gonna hate me, hurry and hate me / Say it like you mean it” on Read Your Mind. The vibe has changed. Tayla's no longer the happy-go-lucky girl we saw in the album's first half.
As Tayla comes to terms with the relationship’s downfall, we grow alongside her. Dirt is uplifting in sound again, a shiny synth line backing Tayla when she admits, “It’s cool / ‘Cause I’ve been doing the dirt too.”
By the time we get to Easy, she’s the bigger person. It’s a stripped back tune, the most stripped back we hear on the album, and really focuses on Tayla’s vulnerability. It’s almost like a diary entry, perhaps a page from the one Tayla was scrawling in during Me Vs Us, but it really sends the album out on a beautifully understated note. She’s a star, but knows she doesn’t need to shout it from the rooftops with bombastic production and masses of A-list features.
Like we said earlier, we need to talk… about how damn good Tayla Parx really is.