Best New Music: NYA Soundtracks the Motions of Radiant Joy on “Good Days”
Best New Music: NYA Soundtracks the Motions of Radiant Joy on “Good Days”

Best New Music: NYA Soundtracks the Motions of Radiant Joy on “Good Days”

A tropical record basking in the gains of positive affirmation

Radiant joy is an emotion popular music has long sought to capture. If you’re from that generation, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” would do it for you. Something more recent is Pharell Williams’ anthemic “Happy”, while the 2000s Freshlyground classic “Doo Be Doo” reiterates the perspective of oneness amidst the great potential for trouble. Across eras and genres, we see how the universal troubles of life provide artists the reason to adopt an oppositional stance, simply by urging the listener to make good of the times.

Likewise, the thematic scale of contemporary Afropop has been tailored to meet these experiences. As generations before have seldom seen, the world is deteriorating on a fast level, bringing health and economic concerns side-by-side with more existential queries. It’s a grim period for human civilisation. Luckily, music emerges from these same situations, and in the hands of the graceful, the phenomena of pain is turned inside out so that wholesome realisations—about not being alone in your struggle; about the beauty of the mundane—are recorded on wax. This is an effervescent feeling with high quality.

“Good Days,” the new song from Toronto-raised Ghanaian artist NYA, is such a record. Following an intrinsically simple progression, its pairing of twangy guitars and a low drum base works to accentuate NYA’s vocals. The atmosphere is that of an intimate live set. On her part, the uNder Alum mirrors the serenity of the production, every lyric packed with the thoughtfulness of someone who’s come through the wringer and can appreciate the immensity of all that lays in front of her. 

The importance of atmosphere in music cannot be overstated. Beyond the lyrical quality, it’s the inflections, the level of the songwriting—these qualities bring a song to life, and “Good Days” has an abundance of them. NYA doesn’t dwell much on what the audience makes of her words; she delivers them rather in a way that ensures they hold the aforementioned worries of the listener, a soft cushion for their thoughts to roam. “I go see the best days of my life,” she sings in the second verse, an acknowledgment of her own person. 


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Music that doesn’t care for perception always thrives, and there’s a certain playfulness on display here. Reminiscent of the grooves on Lady Donli’s ‘Enjoy Your Life’, it’s a subtle disregard to the ingrained fears of naysayers. Everything is possible, such records seem to say, and given the perception battles that many are silently fighting in a world ruled by social media and the politics of image, it’s a blessing when a song sees you. 

This NYA record ticks many artistic boxes, from the leanness of the production to the colourful atmosphere and the purposefully obscure songwriting. Baring her R&B instincts, the sensitivity of the genre’s icons like Toni Braxton and Aaliyah is present, but also imbibing that sweet Afropop feel into its core, “Good Days” scores a wonderful achievement for itself. This it does by acknowledging the popular road, but ultimately just settling for its few viable lessons and then sticking out on its own path.