The most First-World problem? Listening to a song on the radio for the first time and having absolutely no idea who the artist. While mismatched socks might give this dilemma a run for its money, the anticipation of the song’s end — for a DJ to say “that was blah blah blah with new, hot single blah blah blah” — trumps all. However, these opportunities don’t happen as often as any audiophile or rush-hour driver would like. So, when the world was blessed with the beautiful 90s-esque voice of 21-year-old Tinashe, it was definitely a reason to rejoice.
Flanked by an unnecessary but well-strung verse from Schoolboy Q and produced by DJ Mustard, Tinashe’s debut single, “2 On”, brought the acclaim the LA native has been working towards since she entered the music industry in 2009. The track’s success could have been easily dismissed as just another of Mustard’s formulated victories, but upon listening to her debut album, “Aquarius”, we find that the sedated, bass heavy, soulful beat is paired with music akin to the album’s commercial smash. The LP’s composition goes even further than the low tempo, and can be labeled as ethereal music that questions reality and other issues that fondle with ideas of subjectivity.
In “Pretend”, we find a naive Tinashe. As she orates an interlude with philosophical questions, she shies away from accepting the realities of harsh love and retreats to the fantasy of unconditional love with A$AP Rocky. She continues to sound like a vulnerable damsel on the next track, “All Hands on Deck,” which brings into question whether she’s an open-minded creator with more abstract content to be covered in the future, or a young girl being pushed by execs to sound more mature than she might actually be.
On the other hand, her cosmic references build her as a more eloquent songstress; she marries this more sophisticated side with mentions of making thugs cry as she does so well on the complete “Thug Cry”. And again on “Far Side of the Moon,” the lunar reference paired with a low synth sounds and dragged-out notes gives it a nocturnal feel.
Vocally, Tinashe is able to go many places. At times, she’s something like an urban Lana Del Rey, lowering her voice an octave or so to emphasize her distress. Other times, when she’s at her most chill, we get the sound of a contemporary R&B artist notarized by an angelic voice.
This also transcends to her being the sweet, laidback voice that harmonizes rap bars (“2 On”, “Cold Sweat”).
The rapping on the album is quite impressive, but the coasting, intimate beats on “Aquarius” prevail most when Future and A$AP aren’t attacking the music, which begs to be caressed and eased into. Moreover, with the non-sequitur type raps that have taken over the genre, the cohesive nature of the album is obstructed by lines about fashion and ratchet sexual acts when the songs’ themes intend to communicate other messages.
In the name of utilitarian listening, though, Tinashe’s debut can satisfy a wide array of urban listeners while attracting those with an affinity for the ballads of hopeless romantics. At just 21, she has attained a level of command over her craft that is not overshadowed by the overproduction of her record label. And though not many songs outside of “2 On” sound like smash singles, it might be in a DJ’s best interest to take some of the music from the album for an electro mix. For those who listen to the album sans-mettled, they’ll find themselves lost in a somewhat psychedelic world of puppy love, dazzled by interludes and bass lines that make them move.
RECOMMENDED: Transcendent, dreamy and nostalgic, Tinashe’s ‘Aquarius’ hits all the right notes.