"Aquarius" is the soft and sexy album debut from 21-year-old Tinashe. After parting with the girl pop group The Stunners, this young star proves a lot with a solid full-length effort.
It's funny how music comes full circle.
Tinashe was just eight years old when Aaliyah Haughton tragically died in a plane crash, causing the music world to mourn and R&B to be reconstructed in her wake.
Since then, though, R&B has gone through a lot. There has been your Jagged Edge's and your Ne-Yo's, fusing pop hooks with soulful voices and sexual flare. However, I believe the more interesting side of R&B has really been visible through a progression from Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak album, then Drake, then The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, James Blake, etc.
Now that those last three musicians are household names, popular music has meshed with their ultra-moody, low-end theory, indie-minded swagger. FKA Twigs, Grimes, Banks and even Lorde all had a road paved for them to allow super emotional music to be openly accepted by the masses, much like Aaliyah's music was nearly a decade and a half ago.
Tinashe isn't quite as big as any of these names previously mentioned, but she is certainly making a chase for that type of recognition. With a couple of strong mixtapes under her belt, 2014 is bringing the first legitimate album release from this rising songstress, formerly of the pop girl group The Stunners. Her debut album Aquarius is a sexy slice of the future R&B pie that we've all been eating from lately.
"2 On" garnered Tinashe some international attention as a solo star. It proved to be one of the hottest songs of the summer, thanks in part to some production help from uptempo hit-maker DJ Mustard along with Redwine and DJ Marley Waters, not to mention, a feature from TDE's gangster rapper ScHoolboy Q. The track got a huge splash of gasoline when Drake hopped on a remix, making it perfect for the couples in the club. However, if you think this is Tinashe at her sexiest, you best play the entire album right now because this girl straight liquefies sex for your ear drums, for the better part of the 55-minute album.
The first track, aptly titled "Aquarius", is a good indication of what the rest of the album sounds like. It is Aaliyah-esque, although suggestions that Tinashe is on Aaliyah's level is not what I am saying. I am saying, however, that similarities are there musically. They both have very soft voices and sexy, minimalistic production. It's sort of a vintage sound, but falls right in like with the "PBR&B" tag that a lot of these new cats are getting.
Dev Hynes solo at the end of "Bet" might be the most forward-thinking spectacle on the entire album. You just don't really hear musicianship of this caliber on a mainstream record, so it is great to see someone joining Flying Lotus at having some real, spirited instrumentation on a track that aligns itself with hip-hop and R&B culture.
As the record plays on, you get girls' anthems like "Thug Cry," druggy themes like "2 On," and futuristic pop in "All Hands on Deck." The cuts are decent, but really blend together as you listen to the album, more or less becoming one sulky song after another. Any of them will likely hold up by themselves though, given the proper circumstances: you might light one up to "Cold Sweat" or you might seduce your crush on "Wildfire."
However, despite stellar beat production and a worthy performance by Tinashe herself, one aspect that falls short on this album is the features. Aside from Dev Hynes epic guitar contribution, ASAP Rocky, Future or Schoolboy Q are not really bringing anything to the table aside from a stamp of masculinity that gives the "okay" for guys to like it. The rappers don't offer up any sort of lyrical gems that have found them success, making these verses seem like throwaways or quick features they accomplished just for the money. From another perspective, it could be that these features were placed purposefully in order to let Tinashe take all the shine-- not once does a male feature outdo her. Is this a good or a bad thing?
Overall, the album rounds off as a solid first LP effort. It isn't an astonishing album, and it won't change the way you think about music, but it is definitely listen-able and enjoyable all the way through. At the age of 21, Tinashe is well on her way to a successful career, and we truly hope that we haven't seen the best that this young star has to offer just yet.