Tems is a credited co-writer on Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up,” arriving last October for the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack and earning Tems an Oscar nomination at this year’s ceremony. Still, Tems hadn’t released solo material since her 2021 EP If Orange Was A Place. That finally changed on Thursday morning, October 5, with “Me & U.” Tems gifted her patient fans with an accompanying video, directed by her.
“FIRST SINGLE IN TWO YEARS!” Tems posted across her social media profiles. “‘ME & U’ OUT EVERYWHERE So incredibly grateful for all your support! LET’S GO [Earth emoji, dove emoji, star emoji].”
— TEMS (@temsbaby) October 5, 2023
In the video, Tems is found by the ocean. The serene environment is contrasted by Tems’ intense emotion. “This is my decision,” she sings. “I don’t think you listen, you listen / I don’t think you listen.” She asks to “give me something” in return because “I love you,” and “I don’t need nothing, you are my everything.” She dances in the water, atop a cliff, and at a gathering in the woods at night.
At one point, Tems is alone in a castle-like room, sitting in the middle of a circle of lit candles. She sings, “Make me your matter, make me your matter, make me your matter / Show me your substance, make me your person, make me your person /Give me one break, I need faith / Faith to believe you, faith to receive you / Give me something I’m lacking.”
By the video’s end, Tems illustrates her relinquishing of control by sprinting in the dark and falling backward into the ocean.
“Me & U” and its video — and the two-year gap between Tems’ singles — speak to something Tems told Kendrick Lamar for Interview Magazine this June (published in August), when Lamar asked whether she feels “pressure to conform to what people may expect” from her.
“Yeah, you have to remember how you felt when you started as an artist, to understand the reason you’re doing what you’re doing,” she said. “Yes, it’s to be seen, or to make a name for yourself, but beyond that, why are you doing it? Most of the time it’s because you have a story to share, a message to give. When you become more known or seen, it’s very easy to get caught up in, ‘What do people expect of me now?’ But for me, it’s like, ‘What do I expect of myself now?’ Because you’re the one that has to live with yourself, the one that has to sleep with the decisions that you make.”
The Grammy winner continued, “Trusting yourself is so key, and I’m not going to stop trusting my guts just because people can see me now. It’s like being in a zoo. The animals don’t change their behavior just because you’re looking at them. They’re always going to be who they are. So why should I change?”
Watch the “Me & U” video above.