Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): R&B, Contemporary R&B
Linking the decadent alt-R&B of The Weeknd to Aaliyah’s seductive cyber-pop, LA singer Tinashe’s debut rings with synthetic beauty. Lurid, crawling atmospherics led by beats and keys underpin the 21-year-old’s delicate vocals. ‘Cold Sweat’ is a spooky but sexy jam that slinks alluringly, while producer DJ Mustard brings minimalism to infectious neck-snapper ‘2 On’, featuring Schoolboy Q.
First things first, Tinashe is 21 years old and was “discovered” by vocalist Vitamin C an entire pop music generation ago and it shows. Her seven years spent grooming herself were well worth it, as her “debut” album Aquarius shows nuance and seasoning well beyond her years. At a time in pop music where talent is long and budgets are short, an industry-established (three acclaimed mixtapes in two years) singer/songwriter like Tinashe still requires superlative talent and top-notch production to reach pop stardom.
It was the Platonic ideal of a 2014 chart-topper (Mustard on the beat—check; cheeky interpolation of a throwback hit—check; benevolent but ultimately useless Drake remix—check), so it’s no huge surprise that “2 On”, the star-making lead single from Tinashe’s debut album, Aquarius, proved to be a bit of a red herring. And while it’s still probably the best song of the Los Angeles singer/songwriter’s career, ultimately that’s a good thing. Tinashe’s post-“2 On” rise may have seemed sudden (and especially glaring, in a year where male voices overwhelmed the R&B charts), but the 21-year-old is hardly a rookie.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. An Aquarius is described as a visionary and a loving soul, of whom which wants to change the world into a better place, and pushes to get everyone on board in this strive forward. And whether you buy into this philosophy plays a role on Tinashe's debut album Aquarius. If on board already, many will delve into this journey more willingly.
While song titles like "All Hands on Deck," "Cold Sweat" and "The Storm" sound more like buzzwords for a sea foraging adventure, these water-inspired motifs add cohesiveness and help entice listeners on R&B singer/songwriter Tinashe's solid debut, Aquarius. Those expecting a 17-track, single-driven affair will be sorely disappointed, as Tinashe prefers to immerse her vocals in darker soundscapes. It's in this comfort zone that she shines."Cold Sweat" commands her soft vocals over hollowed-out chords and impatient hi-hats while she reminisces on those who doubted her success.
Tinashe's summer club hit "2 On" might have drawn on rote material – going out, turning up – but the way she delivered it was anything but. The 21-year-old singer-producer's ginger, breathy delivery made her sound like a cat slinking through the party, deftly avoiding any and all male buzzkills. Tinashe brings that same savvy to her debut album, using a Janet Jackson-esque minor key lilt to convey gravity and sensuality.
Tinashe Kachingwe's reedy voice and minimalist brand of R&B conjures various other female artists with single-name monikers: “2 On,” the slinky lead single from the 21-year-old Zimbabwean-American's debut, Aquarius, is reminiscent of fellow model turned singer Cassie's 2006 hit “Me & U,” and her voice glides agilely between the angelic loftiness of Aaliyah and Rihanna's harsher, more nasal timbre throughout the album. But there's another woman often identified solely by her first name to which all of these artists are undoubtedly indebted: Janet. From the very first syncopated finger snap of the opening title track, it's clear Aquarius is a direct descendent of '90s-era Ms.
What to call this weird, wonderful world of experimental beat music sung by young women right now? Recent albums by FKA Twigs, Kelela and now "Aquarius" by the L.A.-based Tinashe seem too expansive for the term "R&B," except in the most literal sense — these records have rhythm and swing yet cut through with melancholy. Whatever we end up calling this sad, seductive new sound, "Aquarius" might be the record to take these ideas into every American bedroom. It comes on the heels of the summer-defining single "2 On," a slow-simmering DJ Mustard banger in which Tinashe's lyrics about her hard partying came streaked with a bad-decisions-at-5 a.m.
“Simmer down,” Tinashe instructs you on the very first line of her debut album for RCA. The shock of it – opening a pop R&B album on a note that immediately says “stop, relax” – captures everything her cult fanbase has come to love about the rising LA star. Despite having at one time supported Justin Bieber on tour in a girl group called The Stunners, Tinashe’s been making deliciously low-slung, against-the-grain R&B mixtapes since 2011.
A showbiz kid by the age of three, Tinashe Kachingwe established her acting career in the 2000s, during which she had a recurring feature on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. She was briefly in a teen pop group, the Stunners, who once opened for Justin Bieber. After her group's 2011 split, Tinashe opted to go it alone with a low-key contemporary R&B sound.
It’s been nearly 15 years since her unexpected death, but beloved songstress Aaliyah’s sound is more relevant than ever. Her hushed vocal style and playful treatment of topics like love and sex have once again become in vogue, thanks mainly to the influence of Toronto Tour De Force Drake, who’s taken these attributes and, combining them with spare production and witty punchlines, become one of the biggest stars on the planet. Predictably, a bevy of rappers and singers are trying to do the same, which, despite the repetition aspect of it, has to make ‘90s R&B fans smile: The songbird everyone adored is making a comeback, albeit not through her own music.