Tinashe impresses on debut album, “Aquarius”

By Troy Kowalchuk

Rhythm and blues’ female stars have been consistently overshadowed by their male counterparts for years. This year, Tinashe broke that mold with her breakthrough track, “2 On,” featuring Schoolboy Q. With the track’s massive success came immense anticipation for her debut studio album, “Aquarius.”

Released Oct. 7, “Aquarius” serves as a measuring stick for Tinashe’s success – if she will become a household name, bringing women back to the forefront of R&B, or if “2 On” is all she has to offer.

“Aquarius” has been in production since the beginning of 2014, but Tinashe has been releasing mixtapes for the past few years, after her split from the band, The Stunners.

What makes her such a powerful voice in the R&B scene is that she writes and produces much of her own music. Tinashe is self-made and independent, and her tenacity is what gives “Aquarius” its impressive assortment of guest producers and rappers.

DJ Dahi, Blood Orange, Asap Rocky and Schoolboy Q all appear on the playlist, putting even more hype behind “Aquarius.”

The album starts off fulfilling that hype with its title track. “Aquarius” is both empty and sensual, with light vocals and harmonies. With its catchy beat, the track is able to slowly ease the listener into Tinashe’s sound. It sets the tone of the album, which veers in a completely different direction from “2 On”.”

“Aquarius” breaks down the emotional barriers of Tinashe’s love life and relationships, rather than taking a trip through the fun-loving, club atmosphere of “2 On.”

The album’s second track, “Bet,” is one example of how this atmosphere is presented. It is much more electronic and upbeat than the rest of the album and feels like a strange combination of “Aquarius” and “2 On.” The track carries wispy vocals and offers a trance-like vibe that keeps it airy, while still maintaining a heavy hip-hop beat.

“Pretend” and “All Hands on Deck” attempt to carry the same club-like intensity of “2 On.” While these tracks do not match Tinashe’s biggest hit, they help carry the album and show that Tinashe will not be remembered as a one-hit wonder.

Tinashe’s potential is apparent in “Aquarius’” various styles. The artist shows how multifaceted she is in, “Thug Cry,” “Cold Sweat,” “How Many Times” and “Far Side of the Moon.” These four songs all have some form of a nostalgic sound while remaining modern in their execution.

All of Tinashe’s tracks carry a wide variety of sounds, themes and ideas. She is loud and forceful, but also soft and vulnerable. She is able to shift in all different directions while, at the same time, never straying from the sound she has created for herself.

Based on “Aquarius” and what it has to offer, Tinashe has a lot of potential and could become a household name. The album never falls flat and contains sounds comparable to those of The Weekend, FKA Twigs and Cassie.

Songs on the album may not live up to her smash hit, “2 On,” but “Aquarius” shows that Tinashe is not just a one-trick pony.

Troy Kowalchuck can be reached at [email protected]