Album Review: Tinashe “Aquarius”

If you liked FKA Twigs’ elemental approach to making R&B music but secretly wished it was more accessible, then walk this way. Tinashe’s debut album Aquarius delivers that and so much more.

Tinashe Aquarius

The 21-year old American singer/songwriter has been regularly name-checked by urban music tastemakers as one to watch out for ever since her debut single ‘2 On’ hit blogs this year.

The track is like nightclub candy, setting tongues wagging with its crisp beats, ice queen finger snaps and Tinashe’s sultry tones. The overall impression is sexy and daring without being raunchy, if you know what I mean.

 

The rest of Aquarius, however, takes on a more subtle approach. The album dives deep into atmospheric and fluid soundscapes that sound heavily influenced by the likes of Sky Ferreira and Jessie Ware in parts. Dev Hynes (who has produced for the likes of Ferreira and Solange) hems one of the album’s signature cuts: ‘Bet’.

In true Hynes aesthetic, there are wispy synths, distorted vocal loops and perforating electronic drum patterns falling loosely around the lead vocals.

Where the lyrics feel somewhat secondary in ‘Bet’ in other tracks, they drive the song with lucid emotionality. She sings on ‘Pretend’: “Let’s pretend you never lied so I can give it up all night, swallow my pride and learn to forgive. When I’m looking for love, I pretend it’s you.”

 

The capital T in Tinashe definitely stands for the unapologetic T she’s serving. Tracks like ‘Cold Sweat’ appears to chronicle the gap years between Tinashe’s mixtapes and her current commercial breakthrough.

She sings, “This ain’t a place to be making friends, they all got agendas. These eyes on your back and on your neck… Man this shit is hella scummy. They claiming that they love me ‘cause they realise that my time is finally coming”. That juxtaposition of sweet, juvenile vocals singing about emotionally raw and brittle subjects reminds us a bit of Mya’s efforts in the early days.

While Aquarius has a dominant, futuristic R&B flair, thanks to the combined efforts of several on-trend producers like Mike Will Made It (Miley Cyrus) and Detail (Beyoncé’s ‘Drunk in Love’), the album also adopts some rather old school characteristics. There’s the liberal use of interludes, which hark to the days of Janet Jackson and an era where albums were sequenced to tell a story from start to finish.

An honest and immaculately produced body of work, Aquarius shows Tinashe to be a consummate album artiste not just a quick flash singles seller like so many emerging acts in her age bracket. Yet another reason why she is already surpassing the hype as one of R&B’s most exciting newcomers.

Standout tracks: ‘2 On’, ‘Pretend’, ‘Bet’ and ‘Cold Sweat’.

4.5/5

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