Def Jam Recordings · March 6, 2020
Aiko paints a psychedelic world of healing throughout the album. Every song feels like it could be played at the beach, it’s easy to get distracted by how single toned each song is. Because the beat lacks strength, each song feels like it is lost in the wind.
Aiko’s commitment to similar themes in her work is commendable, but if she continues releasing similar music her sound might be dismissed as single toned, lacking diversity. The beginning of Chilombo shows that she can come up with new and exciting music like her freestyle, “Triggered” and her collaboration with Future and Miguel, “H.O.E.” These songs differ from her past melodic work and bring more passion into her music. But, as the album continues and she goes deeper into her personal narrative, the music starts to sound repetitive. Aiko’s repetitive lyrics are broken up by meaningful sections in the album itself.
The album is broken up into three sections based on theme. There are two interludes in the album that mark each time she changes the narrative. Songs like “Triggered” and “H.O.E.” are about her getting over exes and becoming an independent, single woman. In the second section of the album, she breaks down the facade that she feels happy, sexy, and confident. She goes deeper into her message of healing becoming more authentic in songs like “Born Tired” and “Tryna Smoke.” These songs are more about her own losses in life. She admits that she’s fronting in the first part of the album: although she’s angry and frustrated, she is also tired and in pain. This section leads into the final songs of the album like “Mourning Doves,” and “Magic Hour.” “Mourning Doves” brings an aura of forgiveness and love. These songs marking the end hint that Aiko healed from the heartbreak of her brother’s death and her past relationships. The final song, “Party for Me,” is a celebration of life and loss. It ends the mourning that she expresses at the end of the album and celebrates the cycle of life. She tells people to cry and laugh when she’s gone, not to grieve and mourn like she did after her brother’s death.
Chilombo is rich with emotions, joyful, seductive and sad all at the same time. Although a lot of the songs feel like light beach vibes, it should not be overlooked. The way that the album is made is well thought out and beautiful, finished with Aiko’s unique style and viewpoints. Jhené Aiko has the potential to continue to make more meaningful and authentic music that will diversify the impersonal stream of music released weekly.
Listen to Chilombo: