After a handful of friends insisted that I give Tinashe’s new album, Aquarius, a chance, I pressed play on Spotify while writing last night. I wanted to see what the fuck all the fuss was about. I hadn’t paid much attention to her, beyond her lead single, “2 On,” which I paid attention to solely for its dance-heavy visuals. I didn’t know if she would be yet another dancing-ass, ethnically ambiguous LA girl who loves weed and has a great face, or an artist with music I’d felt comfortable listening to in public.
Although my inner skeptic wanted to hate it, the album pleasantly surprised me. It’s a damn good album. Tinashe has a new fan. Here are les highlights:
1. “2 On” was misleading. Just like every other time a singer releases the most commercially viable song or the coolest rapper collab as the lead single, that song told me nothing about the rest of the album, which isn’t as mindless as the single suggests. It’s the most upbeat song, and one of two songs I skip every time.
2. Tinashe loves Janet. And it shows. How? I counted three obvious nods to Saint Damita Jo. Track two, “Bet,” has a verse that features a rap that’s a clear take on Janet’s rap/whisper delivery on “You” from The Velvet Rope. She then flips Control’s “Funny How Time Flies” into an ode to bustdown marathons, asking “How many times can we make love in one night?” Add a handful of spacey Janet-like Interludes—including “What Is There To Lose,” which sounds like a mashup of Damita Jo’s “The Islands” and Rhythm Nation’s “Racism” interludes—and you’ve got a solid bodyroll compilation and earnest tribute to Her.
3. And then, for some reason, Future happened. In general, I still can’t figure why Future exists as a thing to be cared about, listened to, or followed. Evidencing my theory that rapper/singer collabs are often pointless, they tacked Future onto “How Many Times,” the Janet joint. Of all damn songs. It’s the most ill-advised pairing since Vanessa and Dabnis.
4. Cohesive albums are rare. Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid is cohesive as fuck. The Velvet Rope is cohesive. MJ’s Off The Wall is cohesive. Most albums are an assemblage of great, mediocre, and terrible songs that, if you’re lucky, are decently sequenced. With the regrettable exception of Future’s verse on an otherwise great song, this album flows pretty smothly. The only song aside from “2 On” that I skip is “All Hands on Deck,” because no.
5. I enjoy Tinashe the way I thought I’d enjoy Jhené Aiko.
6. So far, “How Many Times,” “Far Side of the Moon,” and “Thug Cry” are getting the most plays.
7. Without mentioning his agreeable face or some yet undiscovered case of mass hypnosis, can anyone explain Future? What’s the appeal?