On her newest studio album, rising R&B queen Jhené Aiko stirs up our emotions and finds a spot on listeners’ hearts to attach. Multi-ethnic, Aiko’s slight and soft accent seeps through every bar, tying Latin, Asian, and Caribbean tones to the already islandy vibe she established from her start in the music industry. Jhené doesn’t stray far from the typical, sexually charged substance characteristic to R&B, and the 25-year-old singer’s themes revolve heavily around boys, blunts, and breakups, but her honeyed voice and surprising range compensates for any absent lyricism. Aiko is the girl-next-door, a persona effortlessly exuded from her simply chill style and content, but she’s also not afraid to make a dent in the currently male-dominated R&B sphere.
The opener, “The Vapors”, borders on eery. With a beat that hits you straight in the heart, the track is ridden with loneliness, lust, and hazy stoner talk; not to mention, highly worthy of a remix from the Weeknd—one who’s an expert in all these subjects. “Can I hit it again?” Jhené asks over and over in the hook. Distinctly independent and totally capable of the no-feelings deal, she resembles a rougher, less breakable version of female; one who, upon listening to her lines about staying on her grind and rolling in her ride, tempts us to keep it G ourselves. She keeps it real, which is all we can hope for from any heightening artist. Aiko speaks in metaphors, (although any fan knows well what she is referring to), reassuring her lover in question that “the vapors can save us and take us and make us believe we are free”. Breaking up isn’t her answer here, but rather, mutual partaking in “herbal” therapy is Aiko’s first-response for a relationship crisis.
Rapper/comedian Childish Gambino joins Jhené for a John and Yoko type joint, fittingly entitled “Bed Peace”. “The love is ours to make so we should make it…everything else can wait/The time is ours to take so we should take it”. Their philosophy is simple, but worth noting.
Hands down, the most beautiful song on the album goes to Jhené and Kendrick Lamar’s collaboration, “Stay Ready (What A Life)”. The six minute song is absolutely sensual–a quality not usually equated with the name “K-Dot”, but makes for an astounding exception. The first phase is a sleepy session of pillow talk between the two, a mutual recognition of their affinity to one another—and inability to tear apart from the union. The second phase is single-Jhené talking, or venting, about life in a completely different sense—treading on the value of self-reliance and being “okay” with being alone. Another solid collab with TDE’s very own poet–otherwise known as Ab-Soul–follows, capping Aiko’s seven-track EP with some final hip-hop touches.
Sail Out is your standard soft-R&B album, but it’s also a powerful sneak peek into Jhené’s extremely dope perspective on everything from fame to intimate relationships to having faith in oneself. An artist in her own league, Aiko blends tough with sweet, and enough ups and downs in between. The album’s clarity and refreshing production, combined with Aiko’s dulcet vocals, makes it an inarguable 8/10…