Tinashe has always released good music — she’s a consistent talent with a variety of releases including independent mixtapes, multiple studio albums including her strong debut “Aquarius” (2014) and the enjoyable (but missing something) “Joyride” (2018). But that was the previous Tinashe; there’s something different about 2019 Tinashe. That difference is felt throughout her new album “Songs for You” (2019), a sexy, vulnerable release that puts Tinashe in the top echelon.
Maybe it’s because “Songs for You” is her first independent release after years of struggles with her former record label, RCA, and a recent split from the label, but the album is an immediate new sound, fresh and exciting for anyone who’s followed Tinashe. Over the album’s 52-minute runtime, Tinashe plays with various R&B beats and sings about love, independence and raw emotion. When the chorus of “Feelings,” the album’s opener, hits, it’s clear that there’s a newfound confidence here: “Lately, I ain’t been in my feelings / ‘Nashe, I’ve been minding my business.”
Tinashe’s grind to create “Songs for You” comes through in how polished the album is. It’s scattered pop full of bubbly R&B beats that seemingly both allow for beginnings and remind the listener where Tinashe is coming from. On “Hopscotch,” Tinashe sings almost carelessly about her successes — she’s pretty (so pretty that Nicki Minaj sang about it), she’s popular and she’s successful. If only these other girls could compete — she’s showing them how it’s done! When she sings “These hoes wanna be like me,” it’s impossible not to agree with her. It’s a hot song, a release that’s up there with the best songs of the decade.
Other songs are spacey — “Stormy Weather” and “Know Better” are calmer, slower vibes that allow the listener to learn more about Tinashe. When she sings about falling in love on “Know Better,” it’s a side of the singer that’s raw and real. On “Cash Race,” Tinashe combines a fun pop beat with a sick rap, in which she mentions her inability to stay satisfied with success and brags about being the center of attention. It’s a flawless show of confidence from an artist ready to run the music game; if anyone’s going to be the hottest artist going into 2020, thank god it’s Tinashe.
It’s frankly impossible to overstate how good “Songs for You” is. It’s a refreshing listen. The glossy, lightly colored beat of “Life’s Too Short,” with Tinashe’s high-pitched voice, is cleansing. When she sings, “I know you picture us / Been a long time without me / Up early, make breakfast / Spend the day playing video games,” Tinashe presents the perfect way to listen to “Songs for You.” It’s an album meant to be enjoyed carelessly, domestically and comfortably.
But that doesn’t mean “Songs for You” isn’t sharp. Tinashe directs many of her tracks toward a lover, including “Save Room for Us (feat. MAKJ)” and the easy-breezy soul-replenishing guitar track “Remember When.” The latter might just be Tinashe’s best song ever, a song where she practically pleads to kiss, touch and love her lover again. And while it’s easy to get cozy with “Songs for You,” especially when Tinashe whispers, “All these songs for you baby/ you know who you are” on the interlude “You,” it’s impossible not to feel like Tinashe is letting the listener in on an intimate moment. Call it a threesome or a ménage á trois; it’s sexy.
And it’s this closeness that makes “Songs for You” different from any of Tinashe’s previous releases and many of 2019’s releases. Her voice ranges from soft and gauzy to fierce rap and strong singing. The artist is never predictable; no matter what listeners might expect, Tinashe blends sounds and beats together in a way that’s new and exciting. It’s an album from someone who isn’t afraid to play around and experiment but shows mastery over everything she touches. On “So Much Better,” a duet with G-Eazy that’s immediately easy to overlook — it’s arguable that no good song has been made with G-Eazy as a feature — Tinashe manages to make a song that plays to both of the artists’ strengths, with explicit lyrics and an actually acceptable feature from G-Eazy. If that isn’t skill, what is?
And fortunately, that skill doesn’t get to Tinashe’s head. She spends much of “Songs for You” vulnerable and honest about the love that she needs and the love she deserves. That’s important for the balance of the album; rather than focusing on either bragging or bleeding love, Tinashe does both.