Review: Ayo – Billie-Eve

Ayo, is something new. She’s fresh. She’s genuine. And she’s got something to say. Her latest musical giving ‘Billie-Eve’ is a blend of rock and soul. The Nigerian-German singer/songwriter reminds me of Fiona Apple in some moments, Gwen Steffani in others, and yet again Alanis at other times – but with a little more of that ‘punk-y’ thing going on. In fact, just because you all know that I love to compare artists – If you were to take those three ladies and (post ‘Miseducation’) Lauryn Hill and put them in a mixing bowl, Ayo would be your final product.

For starters, I was utterly impressed by and appreciative of the fact that each and every song’s production was composed entirely of live instrumentation. As every music afficcionado knows, live instrumentation ALWAYS makes for a better sound. But on the flip side of that coin, live instrumentation is best when heard as accompaniment for a great vocalist with thought provoking lyrics. Ayo, takes her time with each track, always perfectly phrasing her carefully crafted words. Her soprano is light, airy and honest.

She’s even got a couple of songs on ‘Billie-Eve’ that show a heavy reggae influence, like the thouht provoking album opener ‘How many people’, ‘It’s too late’ (my favorite), or the feel good ode to all the good that is love with ‘Real Love’. What impressed me most about her brand of reggae infusion is that it is exactly that; just an infusion. The musical arrangement has an old school purity to it, not a bunch of studio tricks, just good musicians. Seldom is anything other than piano, bass, and drums heard. A guitar and a cello show up a couple of times on various songs. The album has a real acoustic feel to it. Other really great songs on this project are ‘Who are they’, a song about judgement and acceptance and ‘I Can’t’ a song about being in a love that feels so good (and bad sometimes) that you are just stuck. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Another one of my favorites on this project is a proclamation about self-acceptance entitled ‘I’m gonna dance’. Her vocal inflection in that song is serious!

Overall, this project is outstanding in my opinion. The only negative criticism that I have to give actually has nothing to do with the music at all, but is in the engineering. For me, it is a little top heavy. There isn’t really enough bottom, for my taste that is. Granted, some of the tracks were recorded in an analog format, and they clearly were shooting for an acoustic feel but I still think it would’ve served the overall listening experience to add just a little more bass. If you’ve got a stereo with a decent equalizer though, that problem quickly becomes not such a problem at all.

Bottom line is that Ayo is an extremely talented writer, singer and producer. Her digital album is a solid testament to her artistry. I am excited to see what we will get from this young lady in the future.