Her label originally suggested an album of covers, but Ayo has too many personal things to express to accept such an offer. Perhaps relics of this original idea, three pre-existing songs are nevertheless present on the track list of this fifth album, Royal, from the German-Nigerian singer: Né quelque part by Maxime Le Forestier, Throw It Away by Abbey Lincoln and Fool’s Gold by the late Lhasa.
The artist who made a name for herself in 2007 with her hit Down On My Knees casts aside the folk guitar that she seemed so inseparable from previously, in order to focus on her voice, which is lit up by Freddy Koella’s stripped back arrangements.
Ayo transports her clear vocals and warm interpretations to the core these infinitely delicate songs (Rest Assured, with its hesitant piano), tender and sensitive (Fix Me Up and its bluesy guitars), but also sometimes groovy (Afro Blue, which only features a cymbal and a pizzicato double bass).
Among some other gems of Royal are some slower retro tracks (Just Like I Can’t) and a surprising piece which blends rhythmic reggae and nostalgic jazz (I’m in Love). At the crossroads between soul and folk, Ayo’s graceful, sensitive and intimate melodies make you glad she chose to offer up some original tracks.