Tinashe • Aquarius • RCA • US Release Date: October 7, 2014
Breaking through as a new R&B artist seems like a cruel joke these days…just keeping it real. That said, Tinashe definitely has something to offer to the urban music world. Sure, the eagerness to purchase and wholeheartedly promote R&B is incredibly ‘cool’ as of late, but Tinashe definitely shows why she is deserving of the T.L.C. that promoting a debut album requires. Aquarius is a well-rounded, enjoyable album that balances the club, the bedroom, and relationships. Tinashe is a parts Janet Jackson, Ciara, Kelly Rowland, and Jhené Aiko.
Rightfully, title-track “Aquarius” initiate’s the affair. Tinashe’s cool vocal performance on the opener shines, even though she shows incredible reserve and restraint. “Bet” follows, featuring Devonté Hynes. Slickly produced and infused with modern/alternative R&B cues – not to mention some enigma – Tinashe shines, particularly as she ascends to her upper register. “Pay no mind to what the doubters all say / I’mma be around for ever, always / you can bet on it.”
“Cold Sweat” is a moody ‘grinder,’ like “Bet” clocking in at over five minutes in duration. Even at its subtlest, “Cold Sweat” has bite and grit. Like “Bet” it’s a bit nebulous in sound, but this quality actually bodes well for Tinashe on Aquarius. By the end though, Tinashe does project some – you go girl!
Following “Nightfall (Interlude)” (“Oh sh*t I’m way 2 on”), Tinashe’s big-time hit “2 On,” featuring Schoolboy Q, shines. As always – after ever spin that is – Tinashe always manages to “get 2 on” every time. For those still in the dark what “2 On” is about, basically Tinashe gets too ‘turnt up’ – too wasted.
“How many times can we make love in one night?” Well, that’s the question Tinashe ask on “How Many Times” featuring Future. While the question is never answered, the impression given is that Tinashe and Future are in it for the long haul (“We’re having breakfast in the bed / know I love the way you scramble in the sheets”). Could’ve done without Future’s nipple reference, but to each his own!
The album’s second interlude, “What Is There To Lose (Interlude),” precedes another pre-release joint, “Pretend” featuring A$AP Rocky. Here, “Pretend” seems to glorify the physical component of the relationship while eschewing the emotional aspects of the relationship. Sure it’s delusional in the long run, but this is a scenario that happens worldwide everyday.
“All Hands on Deck” is another sound and enjoyable track. That said, if there’s one rub, it’s that it sounds too similar to the bigger, better “2 On.” Sure “2 On” is about being drunk and “All Hands on Deck” is sex and more sex, but until a contrasting bridge, this slinky jam has much in common with the former.
The moody, weighty “Indigo Child (Interlude)” precedes “Far Side of the Moon,” a song that finds Tinashe confused about DING* DING* DING! L-O-V-E! “So damn jaded / this uncertainty is so frustrating… I’m too old for all these games we playing.” The best line of Tinashe’s moon expedition – “Happy ever after seems like fiction.” Actually strike that, it’s “But I ain’t like these other women / No I, I ain’t really f*cking with it.”
Unsurprisingly, the umpteenth interlude (“The Calm (Interlude)”) prefaces a song, this time “Feels Like Vegas.” Apparently, Vegas is synonymous with sex, judging by Tinashe’s enthusiasm throughout this sensual number. “How you like it, throw me on the bed,” Tinashe sings inspired on the second verse, continuing, “Show me how, to love you the right way, hey / when you’re runnin’, and I just can’t take no more / you go even harder and we end up on the floor.” Girl, you Sooooooo nasty!
“Thug Cry” sounds like a hit from the jump – and that’s usually the sign of a ‘hit.’ Featuring sensational vocals (contextually), “Thug Cry” is fresh, pleasant, and a notable slice of the Aquarius pie. Quite rich, sweet, and filled with fat and calories…
Guess what comes prior to “Bated Breath” – “Deep in the Night (Interlude)!” Shocker, of course! Anyways, on the excellently titled ballad, Tinashe takes her time, letting the listener experience the emotion of it all through the lethargy of the track. Even if it’s too dragged out and Tinashe is “too faded,” the overall vibe definitely captures R&B music of present. One pro is that Tinashe shows her vocal versatility. “Wildfire” serves as the set’s spirited penultimate track, followed by closer “The Storm (Outro).”
Overall, Aquarius ends up being a solid, much better than expected contemporary R&B album. With so much of contemporary R&B being predictable, Tinashe does enough to separate herself. Yeah she enjoys her sex and bubbly, but ultimately, she’s impressive on album one.
P.S. – You can find a shorter, ‘highlights’ take of this review at Urban Music Eternal.
Favorites: “Bet,” “2 On,” “How Many Times,” “Pretend,” “Thug Cry”