Next stop: Love Station. Our train is coming to a halt in Lagos, Nigeria, under the dim, blue LED lights of Ria Sean’s improvised home studio. Although this isn’t where all of her magic happens, it is quite possibly the strategic point of a newer, bolder, sexier, and female-led afro-fusion wave taking over the country.
The tail of her silver durag cascading over a trendy bikini-top, pop-rock-like detachable sleeves combo, and a septum piercing reflecting her laptop’s glow, Gloria Asene Enebi looks like your favorite Gen Z TikTok fashionista. But being fashionable is only a plus, and the app is just one of the many tools Ria Sean uses to put her sound forward. Moreover, one thing you should know about her is not to be fooled by her petite, young, stylish appearance or bubbly demeanor. Looking attentively at her cheeky smile, you can catch the self-assurance oozing out of her character. Ria means business, and by listening to her music, you discover a multitalented powerhouse with a sharp pen and an angelic voice, topped with a taste for the provocative.
Ria used to lead the church choir, but she’s grown now. And she writes about grown-up stuff. In 2021, the Aristokrat Records signee released Fluid, an impressively good EP demonstrating her unique, boundary-pushing universe. Titles like the yearning “Minor Notes” and the daring “Stamina” shamelessly ventured through less explored, more explicit paths.
The follow-up, her latest EP titled Love Station, is now taking a romantic turn, exploring codependence, heartbreaks, and doubt, in six sonic afro-RnB tracks trying to one-up her previous work. “These past 12 months have been a lot of growing and evolving, and just being a better version of myself, of who Ria Sean is. The brand and even the music, my writing, everything has improved so much. And the higher level you go, the more hard work you have to put in […] I needed to pay attention to every word, every lyric, what kind of ambiance, what kind of feel I wanted.” The feel in question is intimate and personal, and the project is reaching a higher potential. This new opus was the perfect opportunity to expand, reach out, find new landscapes and make her sound travel toward new horizons.
While in France for the release of Fluid, she found in this environment and newly met producers Bgrz (for her first single “Thaï Food”) and Seysey (“Needy“) a new inspiration when direly needed. “I was in a studio in Paris and that was my first time eating Thai food. Before that, I think I was having a creative block. I didn’t know what to sing about. I didn’t know what I wanted to do because I was working everyday, recording everyday. And it just inspired me immediately. I created a whole story around the name and the way the food made me feel.” France even sparked an expected collaboration between Ria and the melancholic tornado Yseult on their declaration of love called “Te Amo”.
In all its facets, love is at the focal point of Ria’s melodies, rhymes, and creative process. And this vulnerable openness – seemingly clashing with the previous EP’s boasty mood, is actually a continuation of what makes the 23-year-old singer’s musical and personal DNA. “For me, love is family. Love is me. It’s not hard at all to talk about love because I’ve experienced some part of it: from my sisters, probably from a boy that broke my heart, or from my bank account getting red, … So it’s really easy for me because that’s what makes us human.” Human and relatable, Love Station dives deeper into Ria’s psyche, allowing the audience to share common emotions, like regret and doubt, in a more authentic way. “There’s a particular song on my EP, it’s ‘Still Love You’. I was actually thinking about this and I was like, ‘I think of how you see me / and it’s getting unreal’. Like how do these people see me?”
On the industry side, labels and artists alike seem to admire her confidence and the kind of unapologetic boldness in both style and lyricism that few other female acts feel allowed to explore. From the Mavins Records’ tower, the 20 & dangerous singer Ayra Starr fell in love with Ria’s energy and the chemistry is evident on “Why”. “She reached out to me on her own on Instagram. She told me really liked my songs and all of that. It takes a lot of humility, it takes a lot of passion to want to do that effortlessly without any hate. We linked up and she’s just really cool. We’re both two talented, female artists and it’s rare to see that happen. Two talented female artists doing the same thing, almost experiencing the same thing. She’s my guy.” In a space mainly dominated by male Afrobeats acts, the initiative felt apropos. “It’s not like I didn’t have other features with male artists. I did, but I realized that it really completed the whole energy that I’m trying to promote. The whole bold, sexy woman.”
Wrapping up the interview, I asked Ria Sean about the future. And just like during our first encounter for Fluid in 2021, she gave the same optimistic, assured, and hopefully prophetic answer: “Let’s see how it goes. That’s what I tell everybody, ‘let’s see how it goes’. Right now I’m still working. But I know that in the future I’m gonna be a star. I’m sure about that. The future for me is going to be good.”
Love Station out now via Aristokrat Records.