Review Summary: Treading water.
In the last few years R&B has made a massive comeback, with the likes of Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Miguel, Jhene Aiko, and even this years heavyweight, FKA Twigs. This particular strain of R&B is dark (in some cases), dense in sound and sensual. All the artists above have carved their own niche and have managed to deliver their own sound. As we approach the fall, another artist comes forth to bear the fruits of her labour, this artist is known as Tinashe. She isn't a household name, nor is she 'unknown'. Having released three mixtapes prior, she's about to release her debut album, Aquarius.
Where to begin" Well, Aquarius is a confusing listen and I mean, seriously head scratching. The whole experience is just uncomfortable and there are two big reasons for this. She lacks character. If I hadn't of listened to her prior work before Aquarius, I'd have no idea who Tinashe is, as a musician and what she represents. Which is completely logical, right" After listening to Aquarius, I'm still none the wiser. I couldn't honestly tell you what she's trying to achieve with her music either. It isn't due to her being enigmatic or abstract, it's a lack of substance. The first example of this, is her voice. Her performance is flawless, it's as beautiful as they come, she can be seductive, fierce and completely ethereal at the same time. However, she sounds like she's trying too hard to be someone else (the first name that pops to mind is, Aaliyah) and because of this it's just bizarre, it doesn't feel natural at all, there's no identity, no real...you guessed it...character- just a voice. Even the song content is so symmetrical to other artists work, very few of the songs on this LP have a distinct message. This presents a big problem, because with any musician they 'generally' have their own identity, something that makes them known for being themselves but with Tinashe it seems she's simply borrowing from her peers and inspirations, not carving her own path. She doesn't even do it in a inconspicuous manner, it's brazen, like staring into a UV light, you can't miss it.
Of course you could say, artists in the same genre share similar inspirations, musical idols and so forth, this is completely true but for the most part (and particularly with the artists I've previously mentioned) it doesn't stop them from crafting something that's very much their own. It doesn't just apply to the vocal aspect, it goes deeper than that, right to the core of the record- the sound. Tinashe takes the sensual, takes the Top 100-lite, the moody atmospheres, the West Coast vibes. The point is she's taken it all and just splashed it out on a musical canvas, and Aquarius is what we have. Now, sonically Aquarius is a smooth, varied ride, but I've heard the same synth, the same rumbling bass all before, and it causes such a conflicted experience. Rather than sitting there trying to enjoy what she, as a musician has presented, my brain is rattling off a check-list of a 'who's, who'.
Essentially, Tinashe is a sum of all her influences, which is fine and commonplace but she lacks the execution to create something that isn't so heavily influenced to the point of Déja vu and at the same time any true artistry has been buried beneath. Aquarius is a prime example of that, it isn't necessarily bad in the sense of the music, it has some great songs but as a whole it just doesn't feel genuine, and the content of her music needs to be or it just won't float. This is a challenge for any artist, let alone someone who's releasing their debut album. What makes the whole situation more frustrating is she has a lot of potential. With Aquarius, Tinashe tried to succeed by creating something that represents her, but after all is said and done, it leaves the question, how much is really her"