For Sevyn Streeter, “Girl Disrupted” is the perfect title for her tour and forthcoming debut album. After spending her teens and early 20s in mostly forgotten girl groups, stepping behind the curtain to write songs for Chris Brown and Ariana Grande and quietly building her own buzz with a pair of solo EPs, the R&B singer-songwriter took the stage at the Howard Theatre with something to prove.
Streeter promised the audience that her show would disrupt “your worries, your problems and your weak-ass ex-boyfriends and weak-ass ex-girlfriends.” That swaggering confidence was on display all night as she hip-rolled and side-eyed the unfaithful and unsatisfying lovers that dominate her lyrics. While some of her peers seem to be playing the role of R&B femme fatale, every one of Streeter’s moves and notes is imbued with an authenticity you can’t fake.
That attitude illuminated songs such as “Boomerang,” where she asks how her partner can “act up” when she’s got “all these curves and all this face,” and “Just Being Honest,” where she dismisses a paramour with bad timing. But there’s also vulnerability at play: On “nEXt,” she yearned for her ex-boyfriend to be her next boyfriend.
Streeter is a confident singer with a strong vocal tone and an impressive — if not glass-breaking — range. Her songs run the gamut of modern R&B, from slow-motion jams such as “Sex on the Ceiling” to percussive pop like new single “D4L.” She also paid tribute to the genre’s past and present, providing a female perspective to Tory Lanez’s 2015 Brownstone-sampling single “Say It,” nodding to Aaliyah and the Isley Brothers on the sunny-day soul of “Before I Do” and covering Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.” In lesser hands, “Ex-Factor” would be seen as sacrilegious by the R&B faithful, but Streeter nailed it.
After the particularly taxing “B.A.N.S.,” Streeter took a well-deserved break, playing recorded versions of unreleased songs from her album that feature R&B loverboys August Alsina and Ty Dolla Sign. She also opened up about her process: “I write from what I go through,” putting every heartbreak and disappointment into song. She then took shots at contemporaries who don’t write their own songs, saying that she has to “live my life before I write.” That she has more living to do was offered as a reason “Girl Disrupted” will not be released Friday, as originally scheduled, but sometime in the spring. It seems that Sevyn Streeter’s career has been disrupted yet again.