Teyana Taylor wanted to address the matter right away — and to make it clear that she wasn’t to blame.
“Please don’t be mad at me,” the R&B singer said as she came onstage Friday night at Staples Center, almost 24 hours after her new album was supposed to have been released. Having spent much of the day fielding (and occasionally retweeting) fans’ demands for information, she then used some unprintable language to admit that even she was in the dark about the record’s whereabouts.
The fifth in a series of five albums overseen in recent weeks by Kanye West (following earlier efforts by Pusha-T, Kid Cudi, Nas and West himself), Taylor’s “K.T.S.E.” finally appeared on streaming services Saturday morning — a major delay in the fast-moving digital age.
And it’s an intriguing project, with Taylor’s exasperated vocals over soulful but low-key beats, as well as a thumping house track, “WTP,” that feels like a sequel to West’s “Fade.” (Even casual Kanye observers are sure to remember Taylor’s stunning dance routine in the “Fade” video.)
Yet there was no denying that the album’s late arrival — the result, evidently, of West’s protracted tinkering — took the wind out of Taylor’s sails at Staples Center, where her performance closed out an all-star concert on the second night of this weekend’s BET Experience.
Instead of celebrating, she was apologizing. And though she might’ve been excited to present new work, she was left to sing old songs — skillfully but with visible frustration — to a quickly emptying arena.
At one point Taylor asked someone to lower a microphone stand that looked like it had been set for someone two feet taller than her.
That her request went unfulfilled for a while seemed not to surprise her in the least.
Taylor’s set wasn’t the only part of Friday’s show that made you think about what women are asked to endure in a culture designed to privilege men’s desires.
Along with Taylor, the concert featured SZA, the gifted soul star whose witty and profane “Ctrl” was one of 2017’s most acclaimed albums, and Ella Mai, a young English singer with a top 10 single in the warmly sensual “Boo’d Up.”
Both put on assured performances full of strong singing and engaging banter; SZA, who recently canceled several tour dates to address an injury to her vocal cords, sounded particularly good, with welcome echoes of Minnie Riperton in the florid melodies of songs such as “Drew Barrymore” and “Love Galore.”
But these three R&B artists were joined by an unlikely fourth in Chris Brown, who hit the BET Experience with a shortened version of his current road show behind last year’s “Heartbreak on a Full Moon” album.
Brown’s history with women is a well-established part of his story. Last month — nearly a decade after he was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna — he was sued by a woman who alleged she was raped by a friend of Brown’s at the singer’s home in Los Angeles.
His guilt or innocence is for others to determine, of course, though it’s worth noting that few inside Staples appeared to view him as an especially problematic figure. (The shrieking from the audience was at least twice as loud as it was for SZA or Taylor.)
But you couldn’t help but notice how little attention Brown was paying to the idea of female pleasure in tunes that described sex as an act of physical conquest. In his music — and his remarkable dancing — Brown is always the aggressor; even songs like “Privacy” and “To My Bed,” which make any number of exotic offers, frame his partner’s satisfaction as mere proof of his ability.
Like West squandering Taylor’s opportunity to showcase “K.T.S.E.,” Brown was putting his own needs before those of the closest of collaborators.