Thursday, October 2, 2014

Aquarius | Tinashe


★★★☆☆

Emerging artists have been coming out of the woodwork all year, and there are no signs of the trend stopping now. Although she's been in the music industry for nearly seven years, Tinashe spent most of those years performing with The Stunners, a now-disbanded girl group, and plugging away with three underground mixtapes. Upon release of her major label debut single, "2 On," the American singer-songwriter has been gaining speed in the industry as the release of her debut album, Aquarius, draws near.

With eighteen tracks and an extraordinarily long running time, Tinashe's debut album is equivalent to that of her underground counterpart, Jillian Banks. Dissecting Tinashe's musical style will reveal a blend of Banks' trip-hop meets experimental R&B production techniques, a slew of sexually-charged lyrics, and ultra-seductive beats. The moderate success of "2 On" proves that it's a formula that works, but a full listen to the album uncovers cohesiveness throughout all of Tinashe's tracks. Not all of the tracks are completely polished and the multiple interludes throughout the album are unnecessary, but the album has an undeniably consistent flow.

As Tinashe plays a masterful coquette, she manages to create great tunes with cringeworthy lyrics that nod listeners back to infamous tracks like Khia's "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" or Riskay's "Smell Yo Dick." Selections from this album range from "All in the front, all in the back just like that, like that / I'mma blow your mind like that" ("All Hands on Deck") to "I can make a thug cry, tonight / Watch me make a thug cry, tonight" ("Thug Cry," produced by Mike WiLL Made-It). She unsurprisingly also goes no holds barred on "Feels Like Vegas" as she sings, "Body to body, we gettin' out of this party / Flashing lights / I let you love me 'cause I can tell that you want me / Just you and I / Feels like Vegas, don't it?"

Rarely in this album, we see a glimmer of a vulnerable Tinashe that has stepped away from the sex-kitten persona. The album's title track opens the album on a cool and collective note that manages to mask its sexual undertones, while heartbreak flows through Tinashe's vocals on her own sonic replica of Sade's "Soldier of Love," titled "Far Side of the Moon." Her vocals also take center stage over the muted, subtle production on "Bated Breath" and "Bet." The latter song is complemented by a chorus full of edited ad-libs and verses that allow Tinashe to soar into her light, airy upper register freely.

Tinashe manages to be indistinct yet interesting simultaneously. The production keeps the album partially fresh for the entirety of its hour-long run and her voice is consistently smooth. She relies on production tactics and naughty lyrics to create the newest reincarnation of dirty rhythmic pop and R&B. We're not talking about the indecently comical definition of dirty à la "Anaconda" or "Booty," either; we're talking about the type of erotica that you would discover on the Bump N' Grind compilation disc that is hidden in the back of the glove-box of your mom's old minivan. Tinashe has realized that she fits the niche well and runs with that the style until it's well-worn by the end of Aquarius.

Aquarius is streaming now for a limited time on iTunes First Play and will be released on October 7, 2014 under RCA Records.

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