After the Timbaland and Missy Elliot-aided r’n’b boom of late ‘90s and early ‘00s ended, there doesn’t seem to be a spiritual successor to Aaliyah and Tweet. The irony in that is later on towards the end of the noughties and the beginning of the new decade, Tweet’s ‘Oops (Oh My)’ became remix du jour among bedroom producers hip enough to be featured on Pitchfork. The sound of old Timbo and new-fangled electronica birthed from today’s generation of bedroom producers seem ripe for marriage, and lo and behold, it didn’t take long for a new wave of r’n’b acts to emerge. But the question remains, where’s the successor to the girls of that era?
That’s where Tinashe comes in. While the likes of Ciara and Cassie almost had it, they were weight down by the directions of others, lacking in Tinashe’s seamlessly singlehanded artistic vision. There’s a sense of creative explosion in her debut as a solo act – In Case We Die. After 4 years of being in an unsuccessful girl group The Stunners (whose most accomplished achievement was opening for Bieber), it made sense that the free rein given to her resulted in an album that sounded artistically unrestraint.
There’s that dreaded alternative r’n’b connection to her sound, but she is as much influenced by that as she is by the sounds of glitch hop, indie pop, post witch house drums, and the music of bedroom producers the likes of Clams Casino. And just like them, Tinashe recorded and engineered the entirety of her oeuvre in her bedroom (don’t call it #bedroompop). Unlike them though, she has the looks of a pop star. Even beyond that, Tinashe doesn’t do the static singing associated with alternative r’n’b. Indebted to her failed pop star roots, she still does choreographed dance routines, aiding to our notion that she is the spiritual successor to Aaliyah.
Much like her male contemporaries (The Weeknd, Frank Ocean), she extricated herself from pop obscurity through the power of social media – YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter. Like them, her free release In Case We Die garnered her a record deal with RCA Records. Despite that, Tinashe’s next release was another free mixtape, Reverie, which strengthen her bedroom producer connection with the involvement of XXYYXX in one of the songs. The record furthered its predecessor’s spacey atmosphere and darker mood, to the point that one critic got to claiming first single ‘Stargazing’ as reminiscent of The xx.
It remains to be seen whether her debut physical album would be met with record label meddling or they’d trust her enough to let her do what she sees fit, ala Frank Ocean. In the meantime, quality r’n’b and pop still exist on the internet.
Download Tinashe’s free releases at tinashenow.com.