Wednesday 10 September 2014

Jhené Aiko - Souled Out

The Weeknd, Drake and Frank Ocean have a lot to answer for - they're responsible for sparking the current trend for futuristic R&B that's been growing over the last few years.

It's a trend that's now filtered down to female artists, including the likes of Banks, FKA Twigs and Dawn Richards.  And where the genre has always been big on explicit content and sexuality, the girls have twisted typical male misogyny into their own distinct brands of sexy - Twigs especially.

So where does LA singer-songwriter Jhene Aiko fit in?  Her debut album 'Souled Out' is essentially what Rihanna's album would be if she were to go down a more experimental route.  Aiko's sound has a pop-friendly slant whilst remaining progressive; vocally her sultry, nasal purrs bare resemblance to the Bajan singer.  Lyrically, too, they share a certain aggressive attitude: "have you seen my fucks to give? I have none", Aiko sings on The Pressure.  She's even similarly open about her penchant for smoking pot.

Aiko isn't all cold metallics though.  For sure, tracks like To Love & Die and Lyin King feature the clipped beats, moody synths and autotuned vocals that have become hallmarks of the futuristic R&B genre.  She's undoubtedly capable of delivering a sombre, smoky atmosphere of subtly aggressive, weed-soaked lyrics.  Elsewhere - as the album title implies - there are more soulful elements.  W.A.Y.S opens with a relaxed guitar riff; Spotless Mind similarly includes laidback guitars; and The Pressure is a sensual funk-jam.  It leads to an album that's warm, sensual and blissful.

Aiko is at her best on these slinky, soulful tracks.  Yet even then she lacks the individuality of her contemporaries.  She even copies Beyoncé and Mariah by including vocals from her daughter on Promises - and nobody wants to be upstaged by a child.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Spotless Mind
* Lyin King
* The Pressure

Listen: 'Souled Out' is available now.