“Today is literally my first day off in months,” Iyla says excitedly over the phone. It’s a Friday morning and she’s reciting her plans for this unusually quiet day, which center around one very magical destination: “Disneyland is my favorite place. It has a good vibe to it.”
The downtime didn’t last long. On Thursday (January 23), the L.A.-based pop/R&B artist got back to business by launching her next era with the release of “Tattoo Tears,” the lead single off her forthcoming EP, Other Ways To Vent. And what a stunning reintroduction it is. “I haven’t put out music for over a year now,” she told MTV News, “and it just felt like this was a good way to come out with a bang and a statement.”
That statement is one of total empowerment, as she tells an ex she’d rather “tattoo tears than cry for you.” Over a springy R&B beat, the 26-year-old continues asserting, “I can reign on my own / I’ma wear your crown, throw a king off his throne.” The song was borne out of personal experience and a realization that erasing pain isn’t always an option, but controlling how you see it is. As she observes on the second verse, “These scars will never cease to exist / But I won’t ever fill ’em, fill ’em in / ‘Cause they gonna make me badder in the end.”
“When I wrote that, I was coming from this place of feeling like… in a relationship, there are sometimes emotional scars left on you,” Iyla explained. “I wanted to come at it from, even though you did this to me and you left this mark, I’m going to be cuter and badder in the end because of it. I’m going to embrace it and make it my own and own it for the rest of my life.
“‘Tattoo Tears’ is the most badass way of saying that I never want to cry for you again,” she continued. “I’d rather carve this beautiful scar into my skin than cry for you.”
Iyla plays off of those freeing themes in the accompanying video, which premiered on MTV and was directed by longtime collaborator Embryo. In it, she abandons her usual bright color palette — seen in her earlier videos like “Juice” and “Flowers” — and steps into a black and white world where geometric projections continuously wash over her.
“That stems back to the theme of the record,” she said. “A lot of times in relationships there are these standards that are projected on you. Or expectations or emotions, whether that’s from the person you’re with or from people around you. The video is symbolizing that these projections are unable to stay on me permanently. At the end of the day, I got myself, no matter what, and those insecurities will slide off. They will fall off of my body like those projections did. They’re temporary.”
Iyla speaks warmly but with clear conviction, and that command also comes through onscreen. In “Tattoo Tears,” there’s no one else sharing her space and nothing to distract from her emotionally resilient message. Unless, that is, you count the Beyoncé-esque wind machines that whip her hair around her face, or the fierce looks she wears throughout, like an all-black ensemble with arm-length, crystal-adorned gloves.
“When [stylist Brookelyn Styles] put me in that, I literally felt like a superhero,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m ready. I got this. First video back.’ I felt powerful in that and I wanted to feel powerful in this song. It’s a vulnerable record and it’s definitely taking a stance and claiming my independence. A lot of this EP is like that.”
Other Ways To Vent arrives on February 7 and marks the follow-up to Iyla’s 2018 debut EP, War + Raindrops. That first project is “more summery,” but its sequel “definitely leans on the darker, more ethereal vibe,” she explained. “I think it was important for me to go a little deeper into who I am and get a little more in my feelings. It’s showing the ways that I vent, and music is my way.”
Next month, Iyla will vent out loud on her first headlining tour, which kicks off on February 16 in San Francisco before visiting 15 more cities in the U.S. and Canada. She’ll perform both War + Raindrops and Other Ways To Vent on the North American trek, and she’s looking forward to hugging her fans and reciprocating their support in a judgement-free zone.
“When you come to the tour, I want it to feel like, whoever you are and wherever you’re from, you are completely accepted and loved and this is a beautiful safe space where we’re all just on the same vibe,” Iyla said. “I want the tour to encompass that. I want the merch to encompass that. I want the music to encompass that. I think it’s going to be a really beautiful year. I feel a good energy and I can’t wait to just create more.”