Saturday 18 October 2014

Tinashe - Aquarius

"Welcome to my world", Tinashe purrs at the end of the opening title track.

The thing is, Tinashe's world sounds a lot like everyone else's.  Mark 'Aquarius' alongside the likes of Banks, Jhené Aiko, Dawn Richards and Aaliyah - yes it's another moody, sombre R&B album.  In the absence of a Q4 Rihanna release, this'll have to do.

Yet the LA singer (who writes and produces her own work) undoubtedly stands out from the pack.  This is a slick and sexy release with dark, clipped productions and a soft girlish vocal.  It's simply a stronger overall package than that of her peers.

As well as her own input, Tinashe has surrounded herself with some top talent.  Fellow producers include the likes of Blood Orange, Stargate and Cashmere Cat, whilst there are features from Dev Hynes, Schoolboy Q, Future and A$AP Rocky.  That said, Tinashe's own voice remains the strongest - she's far from a weak vocalist used as a conduit for others.

Where other similar artists are pushing towards a cold, metallic future, Tinashe has a pleasingly retro slant that harks back to a 00s R&B sound indebted to Timbaland.  The finger-clicks of 2 On; the smooth soulful sound of How Many Times; the upbeat pop feel of All Hands On Deck; or the pure pop brilliance of Wildfire and its shattering snare drum.  And who else does live performances with dance routines like this anymore?

That old school influence blurs with a modern sensibility for an overall sound that brings R&B up to date, with a chart-friendly, soulful edge.  The title track provides a spacey introduction before the clipped beats, ominous sub bass and sensual melodies of Bet.  That continues in Cold Sweat and Feels Like Vegas, whilst Pretend puts a modern spin on an R&B ballad.  'Aquarius' sags a little in the second half and the interludes are largely unnecessary, yet it's an album packed with potential singles.

Tinashe's sound might be indebted to some key influences but with an album this polished, she's taken the best bits of Aaliyah (sadly no longer with us), Ciara (seemingly dead career) and Rihanna (lost?) and made them her own.  It's clear that 'Aquarius' really is the dawning of a new star.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Bet
* Pretend
* Wildfire

Listen: 'Aquarius' is available now.