It’s Tyla’s Time

Make room for the IT girl

Following the global breakthrough of “Water” Tyla engaged in several interviews, some of which she shared details of making the Sammy Soso-produced track. The superstar, in one of such appearances, cited Aaliyah’s iconic single “Rock The Boat” as one of her inspirations. Tyla explained that while the song was heavily sex-themed, it was, more than anything, a fun song people of various ages and backgrounds can enjoy. It is only upon listening closely that you hear the brazenly expressed desires behind the tracks’ lush chords.

In many ways, Tyla’s “Water” is the same. But zooming the lenses even closer, Tyla’s effortless style, charming personality, hit-making lyrical recipes and instantly recognisable chords perfectly align with global phenomenons and contemporary R&B/pop stars like Aalliyah. In Tyla’s case however, we have a South African crooner drawing inspiration from her African roots, rightfully earning her a series of viral moments and now, the title of the inaugural winner of the Best African Music Performance category at the Grammys. 


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Per the new category announcements back in June 2023, Tyla made several memorable appearances across world stages to perform her chart-topping single, gracefully supported by the song’s virality on TikTok. Her effortless starpower and hypnotic dance moves sold millions of music lovers across the globe, who joined her with the #TylaWater and #TylaWaterChallengevideos. The dance challenge to “Water” existed on the territory of a major South African dance genre, Bacardi which holds heavy ties to Amapiano. “Usually, this dance style is not paired with this type of music, but I felt it would fit so well,” she said in an interview. 

By the time the nominations were announced in November, the song had already accomplished numerous feats across local and international charts, including the Billboard Hot 100, making her an obvious shoe-in for the category. She took home the gold, sitting amongst a stellar class including Burna Boy’s “City Boys,” Asake and Olamide’s “Amapiano,” Davido’s “UNAVAILABLE” ft Musa Keys and finally, with the only other woman in the category, Ayra Starr for “Rush.” In her acceptance speech, she shared

“Last year, God decided to change my whole life So thank you so much to God, my team, my family. I know my mother is crying somewhere in here. Thank you to the Recording Academy for this category, it’s so important.”

While this is her first nomination and win, Tyla is not new to viral moments soundtracked by a distinct and vibrant melting pot of her diverse sounds which draw influence from contemporary R&B, pop, Amapiano and more. As much as these songs did not travel at the scale or with the speed of “Water,” tracks like “Overdue” and Kooldrink-assisted “Getting Late” share equally viral moments, at the time, cementing Tyla as a star on the brink of breakthrough. If the heart-thumping log drums and twinkling keys of “Getting Late” didn’t draw your attention to Tyla’s pending entrance into the spotlight, then the emotional-laden heartbreak story of “To Last” was sure to clear any doubts that Tyla has been preparing for the moment since the start of her career. 

Tyla has since peeled back more layers of her charm, backed by several contributions that thread her seamlessly into the ever-expanding scope of Afropop. She released a 5-track self-titled EP, stacked with a “Water – Remix,” assisted by Travis Scott and soothing R&B leaning numbers that reaffirm Tyla as the lovergirl she proudly established herself as. On “Truth or Dare” she tells a chilling story characterised by the toxic back and forth of modern romance. She openly calls out a former love interest attempting to spin the block now that she’s gained some fame and success, Message received, oh, now you want me back?/I know the procedure, tryna come to my place.” She unapologetically calls him a fan, daring him to reminisce on all the times he did her wrong. 


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This moment is undeniably special. At only 22, she’s not only the youngest South African to win but Tyla’s the youngest female African to earn a nomination and win in the award’s history. This win has not only shed a burning light on her own potential, positioning her for more outstanding accomplishments in the future, it has opened doors for the rising generation of female music superstars from Africa. With building blocks of what promises to be exceptional years ahead, Tyla’s magical moment is only a sliver of what we can expect from the women of Afropop’s domineering scene. 

[Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE]