Album review: For Broken Ears
Tems’ debut EP promises a compelling musical future
By Isaac Adeoluwa Atayero, Contributor
One of the fast rising musicians emerging from Nigeria’s alte music scene is 25 year old Temilade Openiyi. Popularly known by her stage name Tems, the musician has been able to capture music lovers all over the world with her magnetic voice and impeccable melody crafting skills. After finding much success with her critically acclaimed 2019 single, “Try Me,” and collaborating with heavy hitmakers Khalid, Disclosure and Davido on “Know Your Worth,” the anticipation for Tems’ debut body of work was palpable.
On September 25, Tems released her debut EP For Broken Ears. Staying true to the winning formula that drew many to her music, Broken Ears begins with the vocal central, keyboard assisted “Interference.” Although the introductory track could have been shorter, it is a powerful introduction to the project.
“Ice T” finds Tems at home soaring over minimalist production with impeccable flow and distinct inflections. The line “I make iced tea and I make it with your lemons” is such a ear candy hook that will remain ringing in your ears long after the song has completed. “Ice T” is probably one of the singer’s most playful tracks till date but it does not lose the signature Tems edge for one second.
With “Free Mind,” Tems cements herself at her strongest. Her voice, slow-burning R&B beats and synth all form a strong core for her music but just when the listener begins to adjust to the pace of the project, there’s an abrupt switch to a more mellow verse in “Free Mind.” It sounds like a verse from another song but it is a welcome shift in the current flow of the project.
From one disruption to the next, “Interlude” is an audio clip from Tems’ mother where she talks about God telling her he would have a girl and that the girl’s name would be “Temilade.”
Up next is the brilliantly produced “Higher.” The first thing that stands out in “Higher” is the percussion and its smoothness. This definitely a track that would be translated well as a live performance should Tems ever do one. With no hint of modern day Afrobeats on her project, Tems was able to make a body of work that leaned heavily on a pure R&B and neo soul soundscape.
“Damages,” the lead single from the EP, however is the closest Tems gets to hopping on the Afrobeats sound. She, however, is able to filter the genre and pick what works for her and put a spin on it. An empowerment anthem, “Damages” was made for long car rides and singing at the top of your lungs.
The transitions from “Higher” to “Damages” and “Damages” to “The Key” are the cleanest on the project. The bottom half of the EP find Tems improving the skins and bones of existing melody structures. With lines like “Don’t call my phone, you’re not a mad man” and “Who God has blessed no man can curse,” the bottom half of the EP also presents the most memorable and unapologetically Nigerian lines from the project.
Tems has proven with this project that she is a master of her side of the current. The most exciting thing about For Broken Ears is how much potential emanates from it. Every song sounds like a promise of even more compelling material. Now that Tems has fixed our broken ears, we eagerly await what sounds that she will serve us next.