Tinashe Aquarius RCA Records
Tinashe’s debut album proper has arrived with impeccable timing. By now everyone’s seen RnB’s parameters rapidly expand courtesy of peers such as FKA twigs, Kelela, BANKS and Jhene Aiko, who excel in their individuality and thrive through experimentation. Echoing the greats like Janet Jackson and Aaliyah, Aquarius throws the listener back to late 90s coming-of-age RnB, yet it’s an approach Tinashe has always succeeded in making her own.
Despite the potential for crossover success, Aquarius does not immediately demand attention, instead seducing with sultry hooks and whispering licks. With a little help from A$AP Rocky, Tinashe quickly discards the DIY mentality that propelled her previous work into the spotlight, and becomes a pop chameleon on Pretend. But even with Rocky’s feature the track becomes almost instantly forgettable. Another collaboration, the red hot How Many Times, conjures a steamy bedroom scene, but unfortunately Future’s presence tends to distract rather than enhance. There’s hope yet, though, as Tinashe shimmies away from radio-ready, cloyingly sweet sounds by revving up both the beat and the attitude on All Hands on Deck, where she demands; “kiss the old me goodbye, she is dead and gone.” And let’s not forget the sex, money and weed-fuelled club anthem that is 2 On with its irresistible DJ Mustard hook and Black Hippy hedonist Schoolboy Q’s guest verse, refreshing the memory of one of the finest tracks of the summer.
The foggy electronica, abstract pop and raw RnB of Tinashe’s bedroom production days have certainly been shaken loose, yet throughout Aquarius the emerging star does well to remind us of her fresh perspective on pop. The album could have become clouded by collaborations, and while big names like Mike WiLL Made-It, Clams Casino and the aforementioned features may attract attention, Tinashe resists allowing their individual styles to overshadow this new chapter. Aquarius takes its name from her star sign, and on her debut album, as always, Tinashe calls the shots.