Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe (born 14 June 2002), known professionally as Ayra Starr, is a Nigerian singer and songwriter.

Ayra Starr
Starr performing in 2023
Born
Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe

(2002-06-14) 14 June 2002 (age 22)
Cotonou, Benin
Other namesCelestial Being • Sabi girl
Alma materLes Cours Sonou, University
OccupationSinger • songwriter
Years active2021–present
Musical career
OriginLagos, Nigeria
Genres
Instrument(s)Vocals
LabelsMavin
Websiteayrastarr.com
Ayra Starr performs "Rush" at Shoke Shoke Festival in Kenya, 2023.

In early 2021, Starr achieved mainstream recognition with her eponymous debut extended play and its hit track "Away", which spent two consecutive weeks at number four on Nigeria's TurnTable Top 50 chart; the song also peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Top Triller Global chart, paving the way for the release of her first full-length album, 19 & Dangerous (2021). Categorized mainly as Afropop and R&B, the mixtape received favorable critical reception and spawned two top forty hits in Nigeria. The lead single "Bloody Samaritan" peaked atop the Top 50 chart, becoming the first solo song by a female artist to reach the number-one position. Starr debuted on Pandora Predictions chart and on 28 August 2021, was ranked number three on Billboard's Next Big Sound.[1]

Starr would later achieve mainstream international recognition in 2022, with the release of her song "Rush". The song charted in several territories, including Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number 24.[2] it earned Starr her first nomination at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards for Best African Music Performance.[3]

With the song, Starr became the youngest African female artist to surpass 100 Million views on a single video on YouTube, and also the first to do so within 5 months.[2]

Early life

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Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe was born on 14 June 2002 in Cotonou, Benin and grew up there and in Lagos, Nigeria.[4] She is Nigerian and of the Yoruba ethnicity. Her family moved frequently during her high school years because of her father's business and as a result she had a hard time forming close friendships.[4]

Having been raised in a music-loving family, her interest in singing comes mostly from her family. At the age of 10, she sang in a high school choir and began writing songs with her brother.[4] She attended Les Cours Sonou University and received a BA degree in international relations and "political science". During her college years, she was often bullied by her classmates because of her age and appearance. To counter the feelings, she experienced from being taunted, Starr turned to music. "I would listen to Nicki Minaj on my way to school and I'd feel like the second Nicki Minaj."[4] Starr's mother was very supportive of her musical ambitions and always encouraged her to pursue a singing career.[5]

Career

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2018–2020: Career beginnings

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In August 2018, Starr was signed with Quove Models, a modelling agency based in Lagos. From there, she modelled for companies such as Mazelle Studio, Complete Fashion Magazine and Esperanza Woman. In 2019, she began posting covers of songs by artists like Andra Day and 2Face Idibia online.[5] She chose her stage name because in her words, "it means woke and eye-opening and that's what I stand for."[6] She appeared in the music video for Eri Ife's song "Dear Future Wife". In December 2019, she uploaded an original song called "Damage" on her Instagram page. This was heard by thousands of people including label executive Don Jazzy and led to her first recording contract with Mavin Records.[7][5][8]

In 2020, she started recording at Mavin Studios in Lagos with producers Louddaaa and Don Jazzy.

2021–2023: Ayra Starr and 19 & Dangerous

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Her self-titled debut extended play was released on 22 January 2021 through Mavin Records.[9] The album has been described as "a topsy-turvy chronicle of love or love-themed situations" and "merges elements of R&B/neo-soul with Afropop percussion."[10] Starr said her intention with the record was to make music that would resonate with both young and old listeners.[11] The mixing and mastering of the EP was by Ikon, Louddaaa and Johnny Drille. Starr wrote one of the songs on the EP alone and co-wrote the remaining four with her brother Dami.[9] Shortly after its release, the EP became the number-one album on Nigeria iTunes and Apple Music. As of March 2021, it has reached the same position on Apple Music in 4 other countries, racking up over 15 million streams across Spotify, YouTube and Audio Mack. The project spawned the hit track "Away" which peaked at number four on Nigeria's TurnTable Top 50 and number 17 on US Billboard Top Triller Global. Its accompanying music video also debuted on MTV Base's Official Naija Top 10.[12] OkayAfrica included the song in their list of The 9 Best Nigerian Songs of January 2021.[13] Starr released remix versions of "Ija" and "Away" featuring Tokimonsta and Lilo respectively between March and April. Around the same time, Crayon's EP Twelve A.M was released with her vocals on the track "In Sync."[14] She performed at the "UC Berkeley" Nigerian Students Association virtual culture show titled The Olori Awards.[15] In April 2021, the official music video for her song "DITR" was released on YouTube via Mavin.[16] In June 2021, the music video for another song titled "Sare", was released. Both music videos were directed by Afolabi Olalekan.

On 11 July 2021, Starr performed for the season finale of Nigerian Idol.[17] On 6 August 2021, her debut studio album, titled 19 & Dangerous was released. For the album, she worked with her previous collaborators Louddaaa and Don Jazzy, both of whom contributed production on her EP Ayra Starr, and new collaborators, London and Andre Vibez. The album marked her first time recording alongside guest artists such as Fousheé and CKay.[18] It was met with favorable critical reception with most critics characterizing its sound as primarily Afropop and R&B. It spawned two top forty hits on the TurnTable Top 50, the highest being "Bloody Samaritan", its lone single, which became Starr's first number-one single on the chart. The song climbed the Top 50 for several weeks, and, on the chart dated 27 September 2021, it reached the number one spot, making Starr the first female artist to do so with a solo single.[19][20][21] She debuted on Pandora Predictions chart and on 28 August 2021, she ranked number two on the Billboard's Next Big Sound.[1] She was featured on "in the light", a track on Johnny Drille's Before We Fall Asleep. In September 2021, she was named brand ambassador for Pepsi Nigeria. The following day, Starr performed during a live eviction episode of Big Brother Naija.[22] She collaborated with Cheque on "Dangerous", the second track on his album Bravo. At the 8th African Muzik Magazine Awards, she was nominated for Best Newcomer award. In March 2022, Starr was named "Up Now" by music streaming service Audiomack.[23]

On 16 September 2022, Starr released "Rush" as part of the deluxe of 19 & Dangerous.[24] The song charted in several territories, including Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number 24.[2] It became the most streamed solo song by a Nigerian female artist on Spotify and propelled her to become the youngest African female artist to surpass 100 million views on a single YouTube video; and also earned Starr her first nomination at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards for Best African Music Performance.[3][25] On 10 November 2022, Starr featured on "2 Sugar", a track from Wizkid's fifth studio album More Love, Less Ego. The song reached number 1 on Billboard's Hot Trending, and debuted at number 5 on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart.[26] On 4 March 2023, Starr took to social media to announce her music was used as soundtrack for blockbuster American action movie, Creed III.[27][28] On 13 July 2023, Starr announced that she would headling her first world tour titled "21: The World Tour".[29] The tour included 40 stops across North America, Africa, Europe and Australia.[29] On 27 October 2023, David Guetta featured Ayra Starr and Lil Durk on a house-influenced afrobeat song titled "Big FU".[30][31]

2024–present: The Year I Turned 21

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On 1 February 2024, Starr released her single "Commas".[32]

On 5 March 2024, American R&B artist Chris Brown announced that Starr would be one of the opening acts for his 2024 arena tour in North America.[33]

On 8 April 2024, Jamaican record producer Rvssian released the single "Santa" in collaboration with Starr and reggaeton artist Rauw Alejandro.[34] The song helped Starr become the first female Nigerian artist to reach a peak of 20 million monthly listeners on Spotify.[35][36]During a Fenty event in London that month, Starr met with Rihanna to discuss the possibility of a musical collaboration. This interaction was captured in a video snippet that later circulated on social media, sparking considerable interest among fans and the media.[37] Rihanna, who had been introduced to Starr's music through her cousin, expressed admiration for Starr and also inquired about working with Tems. In response, Starr indicated openness to the idea, mentioning her existing relationship with Tems and the potential for future projects together.[38]

On 30 April 2024, Starr announced that her sophomore album titled The Year I Turned 21 would be released in May.[39] Her album The Year I Turned 21 made her the first Nigerian female artist on the Billboard 200 chart; the album debuted at number 195 on June 10, 2024.[40]

Artistry

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Musical style

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Although musically diverse, Starr's sound has predominantly been categorized as Afropop and R&B. Her voice has been described in the media as "silky", "cozy", "delicate", "sturdy", "arresting" and "soulful", with music critics noting the dynamic nature of her range and emotional delivery.[10][41] Her lyrics are a mixture of English, Nigerian Pidgin English and Yoruba, often exploring contemporary topics such as love, relationships, empowerment and freedom.[42]

With the release of her debut eponymous EP, some critics felt that her vocal technique bore a striking resemblance to Tems' musical style. In an interview with Cool FM, Starr spoke about comparisons to Tems: "I'm a young artist and Tems is an amazing musician, for people to compare me to such an amazing musician, it's a compliment and I'm honoured."[43] Motolani Alake, reviewing the EP for Pulse wrote that "Ayra Starr isn't exactly a replica of Tems, but when she manipulates her vocals to stress the final syllable on words, sentences and cadences by flexing her octaves, she definitely sounds like Tems." Alake also opined that both artists are different and that "Tems can be more alternative while Starr is more Nigerian and more Afropop with more lamba in her soul."[10] Schön! Magazine's Thandie Sibanda called the EP "a coming-of-age jukebox."[6] Karen Chalamilla of The Floor remarked that Starr "not only solidifies the singer/songwriter as a standout vocalist, but also serves as an acute window into her artistic sensibilities."[44]

In a review for 19 & Dangerous, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo of Music In Africa described Starr as an evolving artist and praised her singing abilities, adding that it's clear she "can work across genres while not quite sounding like anybody else." 19 & Dangerous retains the Afropop-R&B sound of her previous record, but it also incorporates influences from genres such as neo-soul, Jazz and EDM.[45]

Her album The Year I Turned 21 received decent reviews from critics. Bisi Ademola of African Folder says the album is a "not-too-ambitious, not-too-experimental sophomore album."[46] The Guardian's Kadish Morris while reviewing the album said "Many of the songs are over too quickly; you’re pulled out of a sultry soundscape before you can fully immerse yourself."[47] While Pulse Nigeria's Adeayo Adebiyi says the album "brilliantly explores Afrobeats, Highlife .and a blend of RnB and UK-leaning genres."[48]

Influences

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Starr grew up in a musically inclined family. She considers her mother, a former singer and her brother Dami, a guitarist and songwriter as her earliest inspirations for her interest in a music career.[11] Growing up between Bénin and Nigeria, she was exposed to different cultures that influenced her perspective on life and her personality. Starr and Dami began writing songs from a very young age under the tutelage of their mother and aunt. She had wanted to make a real career out of singing since age 10 but her father encouraged her to complete her education first.[42]

In her interviews for local and international media, she stated that throughout her childhood, she had a wide range of musical influences, including 2Face Idibia, Wande Coal, Angélique Kidjo, Lijadu Sisters and Tope Alabi and in college, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Sia and Tiwa Savage. She credited Shakira as her biggest influence vocally along with Beyoncé, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus: "It was just the power I would feel listening to their music. We didn't get a lot of Nigerian female singers singing strongly about things like them, not as we do now." Lyrically, she admires Aṣa and has said that she "wrote so beautifully [and] was one of those people [she] would listen to just to learn how to write properly."[49]

Activism

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In August 2022, Starr was at the center of a public discussion regarding her stance on LGBTQ+ issues. This began when she responded to a fan on social media who questioned if her song "Cast (Gen Z Anthem)" was intended for LGBTQ+ listeners. Starr affirmed that her music is for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.[50] In May 2024, Starr sparked significant discussion following her open embrace of LGBTQ+ fans during a concert in Brazil. During the event, she was seen waving the rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and expressing solidarity with her LGBTQ+ audience. This gesture was met with mixed reactions from fans and the public. Some lauded her for her inclusivity and support for LGBTQ+ rights, while others criticized her actions, reflecting the controversial nature of LGBTQ+ issues within Nigerian society.[51]

Other ventures

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In September 2021, Starr became a brand ambassador for Pepsi Nigeria.[citation needed][52]

Starr was featured in the October 2021 issue of Accelerate TV's The Cover.[53] Starr was featured in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of ODDA.[54] In 2021, she appeared in a Notion editorial.[55]

Discography

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Studio albums

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List of studio albums, with selected details
Title Album details Peak chart positions
CAN
[56]
US
[57]
19 & Dangerous
The Year I Turned 21
  • Released: 31 May 2024
  • Label: Mavin
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming
89 195
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.

Extended plays

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List of extended plays, with selected details
Title EP details
Ayra Starr
  • Released: 22 January 2021
  • Label: Mavin
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming

Singles

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As lead artist

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List of charting singles, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
NGR
[58]
CAN
[59]
FRA
[60]
IRE
[61]
NLD
[62]
SUR
[63]
SWE
[64]
SWI
[62]
UK
[65]
WW
[66]
"Away" 2021 4 Ayra Starr
"Fashion Killa" [a] 19 & Dangerous
"Rush" 2022 1 63 5 56 17 1 56 18 24 115
"Bloody Samaritan"
(solo or remix featuring Kelly Rowland)
1 34 [b]
"Sability" 2023 1 6 [c] Non-album singles
"Stamina"[71]
(with Tiwa Savage and Young Jonn)
3 [d]
"Rhythm & Blues"[72] 12 [e] The Year I Turned 21
"Commas"[73] 2024 2 83 5
"Santa"
(with Rvssian and Rauw Alejandro)
38 24
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.
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List of singles as featured artist, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
NGR
[58]
FRA
[60]
NZ
Hot

[74]
SA
[75]
SUR
[63]
UK
[65]
"2 Sugar"
(Wizkid featuring Ayra Starr)
2022 5 38 70 70 More Love, Less Ego
"No Love"
(Ninho featuring Ayra Starr)
2023 7 NI
"Girl Next Door"
(Tyla featuring Ayra Starr)
Non-album single
"My Love"
(Leigh-Anne featuring Ayra Starr)
64 5 28 TBA
"You're Hired"
(Neiked featuring Ayra Starr)
21 Non-album singles
"Big FU"
(David Guetta featuring Ayra Starr and Lil Durk)[76]
18
"Hypé"
(Aya Nakamura featuring Ayra Starr)
2024 TBA
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.

Other charted songs

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List of other charted songs, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
NZ
Hot

[77]
"Last Heartbreak Song"
(with Giveon)
2024 36 The Year I Turned 21

Guest appearances

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List of non-single guest appearances, with other performing artists, showing year released and album name
Title Year Other artist(s) Album
"In the Light" 2021 Johnny Drille Before We Fall Asleep
"Dangerous" Cheque Bravo
"Roadside" (+234 Remix) Mahalia, Rema
"Unbelievable" 2023 Tori Kelly Tori

Awards and nominations

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Award Year Recipient(s) and nominees(s) Category Result Ref.
African Entertainment Awards USA 2021 Herself Best New Artist Nominated [78]
African Muzik Magazine Awards 2021 Best Newcomer Nominated [79]
Mobo Awards 2021 Best African Music Act Nominated [80]
Net Honours 2021 "Away" Most Played R&B Song Nominated [78]
2022 Herself Breakout Artist of the Year (Female) Won [81]
Most Searched Musician (Female) Nominated
The Headies 2022 Next Rated Nominated [82]
"Beggie Beggie" – Ayra Starr ft. CKay Best R&B Single Nominated
Best Collaboration Nominated
Toxic Best Vocal Performance (Female) Nominated
Bloody Samaritan Best Afrobeats Single of the Year Nominated
Headies' Viewer's Choice Won
19 & Dangerous Best Afrobeats Album Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
BET Awards 2022 Herself Best New International Act Nominated [83]
BET Awards 2023 2023 Herself Best International Act Nominated [84]
The Future Awards Africa Herself Prize for Music Pending [85]
Grammy Awards 2024 "Rush" Best African Music Performance Nominated [3]

Notes

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  1. ^ "Fashion Killa" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number eighteen on the UK Afrobeat Singles Chart.[67]
  2. ^ "Bloody Samaritan (Remix)" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but the Original Version peaked at number four on the UK Afrobeat Singles Chart.[67]
  3. ^ "Sability" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number five on the UK Afrobeat Singles Chart.[67]
  4. ^ "Stamina" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number two on the UK Afrobeat Singles Chart.[67]
  5. ^ "Rhythm & Blues" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number eight on the UK Afrobeat Singles Chart.[67]

References

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  2. ^ a b c The Scoove, Africa (28 February 2021). "Ayra Starr breaks new Record as "Rush" hits 100 Million views on YouTube". The Scoove Africa.
  3. ^ a b c "2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List | GRAMMY.com". www.grammy.com. Retrieved 11 November 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Obi, Ify (18 March 2021). "Nigerian Singer Ayra Starr Is Making Her Mark on Music". HYPEBAE. Archived from the original on 12 April 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Ayra Starr: Nigerian teen leading her generation's sonic revolution". NME. 16 February 2021. Archived from the original on 17 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b Sibanda, Thandie (25 February 2021). "interview | ayra starr". Schön! Magazine. Archived from the original on 17 April 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  7. ^ Vincent, Oladoyinbo (13 February 2024). "How I Got Signed By Don Jazzy". DevOne Africa.
  8. ^ Onyango, Alfayo (2 April 2021). "Arya Starr: Nigerian teen music sensation". The Standard (Kenya). Archived from the original on 2 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Ayra Starr – EP by Ayra Starr". Archived from the original on 12 April 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Alake, Motolani (22 January 2021). "Ayra Starr sounds like a disruptor with a soul of 'lamba' on her self-titled debut [Pulse EP Review]". Pulse Nigeria. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
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  13. ^ "The 9 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month (January)". OkayAfrica. 27 January 2021. Archived from the original on 4 May 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
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  15. ^ Okobz, Ralph (20 April 2021). "Watch Ayra Starr's Captivating UC Berkeley Performance". NotJustOk. Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
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  26. ^ Rutherford, Kevin (22 November 2022). "Wizkid Dominates With Top Four Spots on Hot Trending Songs Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 15 August 2023.
  27. ^ "Ayra Starr gushes as her song gets featured in Hollywood's,Creed III". tribuneonlineng. 4 March 2023. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  28. ^ "Nigerian singer Ayra Starr names Cristiano Ronaldo among her idols". SoccerBrief.co.uk. 20 June 2023. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  29. ^ a b "Ayra Starr Announces First Headlining World Tour / Reveals Dates - That Grape Juice". thatgrapejuice.net. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  30. ^ Krol, Charlotte (30 October 2023). "David Guetta shares new single, 'Big FU', with Ayra Starr & Lil Durk: Listen". DJ Mag. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  31. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (27 October 2023). "Friday Music Guide: New Music From Taylor Swift, Brent Faiyaz and More". Billboard. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  32. ^ "Ayra Starr's New Single Has Her Staying Focused On Her "Commas" – Okayplayer". www.okayafrica.com. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  33. ^ "Chris Brown Announces "The 11:11 Tour" Dates With Muni Long and Ayra Starr". Rap-Up. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  34. ^ Staff, LaMezcla (8 April 2024). "Rvssian Rauw Alejandro & Ayra Starr Release New Single "Santa"". Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  35. ^ "Ayra Starr achieves 2 career milestones on Spotify". NotjustOk. 30 April 2024. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  36. ^ Vaseline (30 April 2024). "Ayra Starr reaches 2 career milestones on Spotify". Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  37. ^ "Rihanna & Ayra Starr Finally Meet at FENTY X PUMA London Launch - That Grape Juice". thatgrapejuice.net. 17 April 2024. Retrieved 9 July 2024.
  38. ^ "Why I want a song with Ayra Starr – Rihanna". Vanguard. 19 April 2024. Retrieved 9 July 2024.
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  40. ^ https://dailypost.ng/2024/06/11/ayra-starr-becomes-first-female-nigerian-artiste-to-debut-on-billboard-200-album-chart/#:~:text=Ayra%20Starr%20has%20made%20history,at%20No.%20195%20on%20Monday.
  41. ^ Chalamilla, Karen (9 August 2021). "Ayra Starr Album Review: 19 & Dangerous | THE FLOOR MAG". The Floor Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 September 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  42. ^ a b Conteh, Mankaprr (13 August 2021). "The Sharp and Swift Ascent of Ayra Starr". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 28 September 2022. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  43. ^ "AYRA STARR SAYS IT'S A COMPLIMENT AND SHE'S HONOURED TO BE COMPARED TO TEMS". Cool FM – Your Number One Hit Music Station !. 20 February 2021. Archived from the original on 14 September 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
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  61. ^ "IRMA – Irish Charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  62. ^ a b "Ayra Starr – Rush". dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 16 March 2024.
  63. ^ a b Peak chart positions for singles in Suriname:
  64. ^ "Veckolista Singlar, vecka 4". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  65. ^ a b "Ayra Starr | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 March 2023.
  66. ^ Peaks on the Billboard Global 200:
  67. ^ a b c d e "Official Afrobeats Chart". UK Single charts. 26 July 2023.
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  69. ^ "Canadian certifications – Ayra Starr". Music Canada. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  70. ^ a b "French certifications – Ayra Starr" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
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