Don’t get it twisted, Tinashe’s been on this wave. As a matter of fact, Tinashe is the wave. From her first mixtape (In Case We Die, 2012) to her major label debut album (Aquarius, 2014), Tinashe’s murky mixture of alternative R&B, electronica, soul, rap, and pop has consistently placed her at the forefront as one of her generation’s most underrated tastemakers. On Songs for You, her first official project since parting ways with RCA Records, Tinashe continues to blend genres and set trends that bigger stars will take years to get hip to.
“Feelings,” the album opener, starts the album’s journey in familiar territory. Trap beats mark the foundation of the track as Tinashe loosley sing-raps about a wide range of emotions. From the onset, it is clear that Songs for You is not going to be a onenote record in the sense that it’s moody and emotional. On the opening track alone, Tinashe is melancholic, unapologetic, confident, nervous, sassy, flirty, and heartbroken all at the same time. She’s human, and it’s that humanity that grounds her lyricism in the face of the glitchpop and spacey production that soundtracks most of this record. “Life’s Too Short,” the following song, is a perfect example of parallelism between vocal delivery, lyricism, and production. The general theme of this track is the reckless feeling of adventure because, well, “life’s too short.” Lyrically, each line sort of runs into the next, and Tinashe sings those lines very fluidly. The delivery is still nuanced and done with intent, but it feels effortless. Furthermore, the production on this track shifts Songs for You into the drifting and ethereal sonic space that hardcore Tinashe fans know and love. Tracks like “Stormy Weather” and “Know Better” are in a similar sonic space with their futuristic production, but Tinashe balances everything with gorgeous stacks of harmonies that fully round out each track.
From there, the record slides into West Coast hip-hop/bounce stylings with “Hopscotch,” a fun track that is the first of a number of excellent hip-hop moments on Songs for You. Two standout tracks, “Cash Race” and “Link Up,” show Tinashe flexing her rap skills as she tries on different standard trap music cadences. Lyrically, these are the least “substantive” songs on the album. Regardless, in a way similar to Ariana Grande’s “7 rings,” the sheer bravado and joy on these tracks make them more uplifting and confidence-boosting than any regular inspirational track. Tinashe wears dance music just as well as she wears hip-hop. From the disco influenced “Perfect Crime” to the house music-influenced “Die a Little Bit” (review here), Tinashe’s falsetto floats over the pulsating synths while she shifts between a staccato delivery and more languid vocal stylings. Even when she’s blending and borrowing from different genres, Tinashe’s innate pop sensibilities always come to light. For example, “Save Room for Us,” sounds straight out of The Weeknd’s Starboy, but something about Tinashe’s tender tone elevates the track beyond belief.
Tinashe’s chemistry with G-Eazy on “So Much Better” and 6LACK on “Touch & Go” offer a nice change of energy. The sexual synergy on “So Much Better” is a perfect counterpart to the emotional connection on “Touch & Go.” Finally, Songs for You ends on a quiet note. “Remember When,” the album’s closing track, features Tinashe unpacking the mayhem of her own emotions and working her way through nostalgia over a dry acoustic guitar. While this project arguably has many emotional apexes, “Remember When” might be the most heart-wrenching one… and one of Tinashe’s best tracks in general. Songs for You moves pretty quickly. The album clocks in at just under an hour with fourteen full tracks, and none of them overstay their welcome. Whether she’s gassing up her girls, working her way through failed relationships, or debating jumping into something new, Tinashe says what she has to say moves on. As aforementioned, this all circles back to the humanity and honesty that grounds this record. It’s fast-paced, because as humans we’re all always moving on to the next feeling, the next relationship, the next problem, etc. Songs for You channels that chaos into something more layered and thoughtful.
Key Tracks: “Life’s Too Short”; “Cash Race”; “Story Of Us”; “Touch & Go”; “Remember When”