For the ambient, breathy-voiced Tinashe, entry into R&B’s circle was gradual; specifically, the singer’s acclaim only solidified after three top-notch mixtape releases between 2011-2013–and the trickling of last January’s radio banger, “2 On” (feat. ScHoolboy Q) into urban radio’s loop. Finally, the 21-year-old songstress has caught the attention of neo-R&B listeners, pop-heads, and some in between.
Aquarius is Tinashe’s first-ever, legit studio album–and like Reverie before it–certifies her penchant for meditative, vocal escape.
An edgier Jhenè and a more topical Ciara, Tinashe is a well-balanced cross-breed of R&B’s females. But while her smoothness and tough girl-autonomy come solely from a power within, the singer isn’t too proud to dig up Aaliyah/Tamia/Janet-roots for more classic insight.
The axis upon which Aquarius spins balances Tinashe’s own shifts from light to dark–whether it’s celestia-praising gratitude or acerbic speak of past-love wreckage. The whispery title track reflects Tinashe’s typical repose, replete with fluttering talk of zodiac imagery and aerial hums of detachment from society and its stressors; “Stars, stars are blind, blind; the government, the media, the forums…blind, blind/And my mind, mind, numb, numb…Times, times, come, come…” Astral harmony is the denoting factor of peace in Tinashe’s dimension.
…And all that the album’s handpicked collaborators do is go with the flow—whether it’s Devonte Hynes’ oscillating background-groans on the moody “Bet”…or A$AP Rocky’s love-stricken verse on “Pretend”.
Aquarius‘ downfall occurs when substance hits scant-level. The EP accommodates more than a couple ‘fillers’…and not just 3-minute-long ones. Tracks like “Cold Sweat” continue in sensual, soothing fashion–but don’t bear nearly enough matter or melody to make our 5 minutes worthwhile. “Bated Breath” treads on similar vacuity, and reminds us once again…”less is more”.
When she’s experimenting with vocal riffs and runs, hopping on the bouncier beats (“All Hands on Deck”, “2 On”), or even diving into the spiritually provocative…Tinashe shines. Any other, super-slowed down involvement is less than a specialty, and justifiable means to hit ‘skip’.
Aside from these snoozy dips, the girl has mastered cozy R&B. Rest assured that any voice, instrumental, or sound present on Aquarius has already made it through Tinashe’s highly select, calmative-only filter.
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