by Emma Turney
Tinashe has been on the rise for nearly six years now. Her 2014 single, “2 On” was so addictive it promised Tinashe to be the next R&B superstar. But amidst uncomfortably public label drama with RCA, including Tinashe leaking one of her own songs and the derailing of her sophomore album, Joyride, the hype faded fast. The real shame is through all of this horribly handled PR, Tinashe released some of the most underrated bops of this decade (“Party Favors,” “Throw A Fit,” “No Drama”). She just could never get a full length to match the clear potential she had. After splitting with RCA earlier this year and hitting number one independently, Tinashe seems to have hit the reset button on her career and released her most professional, cohesive piece of work yet.
Songs For You feels like what would’ve happened if the drama had subsided and Tinashe had the liberty to explore her fresh take on R&B in 2014. Though she’s now a more mature, seasoned musician, Tinashe is still the underground bad bitch fans have continued to rally behind. “Link Up” is Tinashe at her best with deep, dark production and confident lyrics (“Bad bitches link up, link up / I just pulled up in a Brinks truck”). She gets even more assertive on the self-obsessed “Cash Race” (“I know I’m the shit, I’m sure I’m the shit / Cause most of these bitches are basic”). Playing within this comfort zone, Tinashe gets hilariously campy on “Hopscotch” featuring fun West Coast radio style MCing. “Die A Little Bit” with British rapper Ms Banks takes this a bit farther with a beat you could imagine drag queens voguing to. Songs For You continually shows that Tinashe is equally as much a dancer as she is a musician and the record supports her ability to create complex choreographed videos.
However, for as often as Tinashe plays within her established comfort zone, she also steps out of it a bit, sometimes with failure but more often with great success. “Feelings” starts with a classic Tinashe chorus complete with talking about herself in the third person (“‘Nashe I been minding my business”), before eventually fading into a dreamscape of echoey falsetto. This turn toward something new directly reflects her newfound independence since leaving RCA. It continues on the desperate “Know Better,” which feels like Tinashe crying on the dance floor. The track showcases Tinashe’s vocals like never before, but at 7 minutes long it sadly gets old fast. Over a 15 track record, Tinashe sometimes gets too liberated by her recent indepence. She sounds beautiful over an acoustic guitar on “Remember When,” but no one wants acoustic guitar from the resident R&B bad bitch.
Tinashe’s quick transition from leaving RCA to releasing Songs for You shows her promise, though she is sometimes overzealous in the process. Even though she’s been in the industry for a while now, the mainstream has yet to fully accept her, making a 15 song album too dense for the average listener. But Tinashe makes party bops like no one else right now. Songs For You is one step closer to the rest of the world realizing it too.