Tinashe – ‘333’ review: mercurial star follows her muse, with electrifying results

With album five, the 28-year-old continues her sonic journey into inventive, exploratory alt-R&B, far from the cookie-cutter mould she could have fit into

Tinashe has always been considered royalty in the alt-R&B scene. From her 2014 breakthrough song ‘2 On’, she was seen as the perfect amalgamation of R&B and hip-hop, with a charming tomboy look to boot. On her fourth record, 2019’s eclectic ‘Songs For You’, she showed that she can do almost anything. Now, her fifth album – and her second as an independent artist since being released from RCA – furthers the 28-year-old’s narrative of being whatever she wants to be musically.

‘333”s two singles, ‘Bouncin’’ and ‘Pasadena’, introduced yet another Tinashe – one keen to explore hyper-pop and razor-sharp synths. Yet even this development feels natural; such openness is precisely what fans love about the LA-based singer. But when Tinashe isn’t giving us uptempo, feel-good tracks, she takes us back to her mixtape days, cruising over pop-rap beats in her lowest, moody tone. The bassy ‘I Can See The Future’ will feel nostalgic to those who were in love with ‘Boss’, a fan favourite that appeared on 2012 debut mixtape ‘In Case We Die’.

But the true highlights of Tinashe’s new studio album are ‘Unconditional’ – a shimmering dance track – and the aptly titled closer ‘It’s a Wrap’. The latter is a family affair, Tinashe appearing with her two younger brothers, fellow vocalists Quiet Child and KUDZAI, as they play around on an ethereal, pixelated tune. Her serene voice blends with Kudzai’s nasally vocals and Quiet Child’s bassy baritone, creating an atmospheric, choir-like sound. You’re bound to be left singing along: “You know it’s a wrap, you know it’s a wrap / Cancelled – no there ain’t no comin’ back”. This is certainly the most freeform, improvised-sounding song on the record – as though the trio were goofing around in the studio – and ‘It’s a Wrap’ feels like one of the star’s most personal moments.

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‘333’ is a clear attempt to push back against the pop princess vibe Tinashe was reportedly almost ushered into under under her former label. She’s now free and independent, a journey that began with that genre-busting fourth album, and here we find an artist who is always reinventing what pop is and blurring the lines as to what R&B can be. Showcasing the eclectic Tinashe many OG fans first loved, ‘333’ gives off the same energy as early mixtapes such as ‘Black Water’ and the aforementioned ‘In Case We Die’, reminding us of the singular artist that Tinashe is and always has been.

Details

Release date: August 6

Record label: Tinashe Music Inc.

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