Sloppy, unoriginal or just plain crappy lyricism has plagued pop culture for some time. Most modern musicians more resemble generic products rather than creative artistes in human culture’s most enduring art form. There are a few young bloods however, especially on the urban music scene, who have inspired hope for the future of the music industry.
Tanya Stephens is not one of them. This veteran Jamaican musician has already charted an illustrious career spanning a decade, and her latest release affirms that she is still on the map and hasn’t lost her touch.
Guilty may not be aimed at any one musician in particular but the album deals some deadly blows to the music industry degenerates. The title track which is at the helm of the album sets the tone for the raw poeticism that Guilty all but dares listeners not to acknowledge.
Stephens’ voice is unmistakable and seems to stamp each lyric with earnest emotion. One of the benefits of writing your own lyrics is that you are always able to connect on a personal level with each performance and in the case of Stephens this translates to some deeply soulful renditions.
Her distinct, raspy crooning on some songs channel her r&b and soul influence which she acknowledges in “More Music” –referencing musicians like Marvin Gaye, Etta James and Millie Jackson. “More Music” takes a jeering jab at modern entertainers who Stephens describes as being “clones” who have become bigger than the music. Where the musician deejays, she wears her typical hardcore edge but also shows that she can soften things up in songs like “140lbs of Love” with its old school, lovers rock theme.
The album is by no means a family album and some of Stephens’ lyrics are unapologetically raw. The musician traverses the realms of sex and sensuality, love gained and loss and the travails and triumphs of the human condition all the while preserving the quality of the music and her performance.
“Broken People” with its sober thoughtfulness is a symphony of inspiration aimed at the hurt and downtrodden. Stephens has long been recognized for her conscious lyrics with one social scientist describing her as an “intuitively intelligent” musician who “deftly tackles relevant social issues”.
“Corners of My Mind” features Sanjay in a softer setting than the dancehall musician is known for. The up and comer has been establishing himself as a multi-talent since he started his journey in the industry in 2011. Both musicians find a tender harmony in the melancholy break-up ballad. “Get Up and Dance” will make you want to do just that with its soul train inspired groove. The track is another break-up anthem but focuses more on finding happiness after love is lost.
Guilty’s 16 tracks are as dynamic as the album is accomplished. The music industry credits Stephens as a dancehall artiste but the artiste has proven that she is bigger than the dancehall genre alone. Though her skills as a deejay rival the most adept veterans in the industry, both male and female, Stephens sets herself apart from her peers with her originality and the range of her musicality. She seems to stand on her own as a one woman ensemble with talent unparalleled and the charisma to match.