Songs for You (released November 21, 2019)
“Apologies in order, to Tinashe my daughter/if it was up to me, you be killing R&B….”
Well, she’s not my daughter, but hear me out.
Several episodes ago on the Soulback Podcast, Tinashe was a point of discussion and it was asked if she’d ever reach the potential she once showed. I was highly skeptical – not of her talent, but because her career seemed irreparably damaged by so many false starts and bad turns.
In the early years of the decade, Tinashe seemed like a surefire star. Her moody mixtapes predated the “vibey” era that would overtake R&B in the coming years so she seemed ahead of her time. But when she landed her major-label with RCA Records, her image was revamped and things went awry. Things started strong – her track “2 On” was a hit – but once she was forced to chase trends, she lost her uniqueness.
She went from intriguing new R&B voice to interchangeable pop pretender.
But now she’s taking control. With her RCA deal now done, Tinashe has what she’s needed for so long – freedom. Songs for You, her fourth album and first as an indie artist, feels like emancipation.
Most importantly, it feels like Tinashe. Finally.
The bass-heavy, haunting atmosphere of intro track “Feelings” is the type of track that had fans turning their heads nearly a decade ago. “Life’s Too Short” is a fine balance between bouncy and brooding as she envisions spending her days with a guy by making his breakfast and playing video games. Dats wifey material right there, fellas.
Tinashe isn’t afraid to switch up the tempo. “Hopscotch” allows her to, well, hopscotch over some trap drums; “Cash Race” rests in that same vein but is even more addictive. Her light but hyperactive vocals on “Story of Us” give off strong Mariah Carey vibes while things get a bit more groovy for “Save Room for Us.” She even incorporates some dance elements into “Die A Little Bit,” which feels a bit more natural and not as abrasive as some of Teyana Taylor’s similar efforts.
Unsurprisingly, the only time Songs for You stumbles is when Tinashe starts following the crowd. While some of the trap&B efforts here aren’t offensive, others are TOO stereotypical. “Link Up” is the biggest offender, where Tinashe brags about driving around in a Brinks truck while her mink coat drips like a faucet or something. It’s the same goofy lines you’ve heard 20 billion times already from 20 billion other trappers. It’s not Tinashe.
What is Tinashe is the nearly seven-minute-long “Know Better,” a sprawling record that’s essentially two songs in one. “Living like a ghost, I’m haunted/All I want is to feel like the old me.”
Don’t worry, Songs for You definitely feels like the old you.
Songs for You isn’t a perfect project – at times it feels more like a scattered collection of tracks than a cohesive LP (better track sequencing would have helped pull things together on that front). But nearly everything here is strong and for the most part feels authentically Tinashe.
Songs for You is the step in the right direction she needed. I doubted Tinashe before but I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.
Best tracks: “Know Better,” “Story of Us,” “Life’s Too Short”
4 stars out of 5