Tinashe – ‘Songs For You’ review’: underrated pop star hopscotches from one sound to the next

Tinashe's fourth album boasts flashes of her distinct personality, which is also sometimes obscured by genre-hopping

For Tinashe’s loyal fans, it feels like a crime that the versatile 26-year-old singer isn’t afforded the same reverence as someone like Rihanna.

Perhaps this is because the music industry doesn’t really understand what to do with her: Tinashe’s first three albums shifted from pop princess to adult R&B star in a way that felt jarring and more than a little schizophrenic. Her fourth album, ‘Songs For You, has been released independently – she was previously signed to RCA – and is all about addressing these concerns, setting up Tinashe to finally make the music that she truly loves.

This certainly feels like a more confident Tinashe, who boasts about owning enough cars to buy a lot (‘Hopscotch’) and making “back-to-back hits” (‘Cash Race’) over bouncy summer time anthems that feel ready made for radio success. On these endlessly catchy songs, you can hear the spring returning to Tinashe’s step, and it genuinely sounds like the artist is finally having fun again.

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“Fuck it / gotta go with the feeling” she boldly insists amid the fun, psychedelic synths of highlight ‘Stormy Weather’, a conversational lyric that suggests Tinashe has found her mojo and is now working more instinctively. Yet on the same song she also talks about unapologetically flipping backwards and forwards stylistically, unwittingly indicating the weaknesses on this record.

Read more: Tinashe: “I don’t understand artists who don’t like the spotlight”

Tinashe flips so aggressively between genres that the record becomes unfocused and sporadic. Of course there’s nothing wrong with Tinashe showing emotional duality, but in transitioning so sharply from R&B to rap to stadium pop to EDM, ‘Songs For You’ makes you feel a little dizzy. It sounds like Tinashe is still trying too hard to prove herself, as if she’s making songs for particular crowds, rather than focusing on making an album with a consistent theme holding it together — it’s like owning a glitzy house, but with a weak foundation.

The lyrics can also feel a little clumsy, too. When Tinashe is just letting herself go and having fun, her conversational turn of phrase is fluid and relatable, but when she’s trying to make a chart-friendly love ballad – or recycling clichés such as “true love will find a way” on ‘Save Room For Us’ – it’s harder to spot a personality. It can feel like you’re listening to someone doing an Aaliyah or Ariana Grande reference track rather than truly embodying their own uniqueness.

Perhaps the best moment here is the powerful ‘Know Better’, a song on which a heartbroken Tinashe experiments with grandiose strings and a far more introspective songwriting style, which suggests she’s still haunted by trauma of her past.

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When she cathartically belts out the line “Did you notice me?”, it could almost work as much as a message to her critics as well as an ex. It’s a heartfelt left turn and if Tinashe makes more focused, heartfelt music like this in the future, and stops spreading herself so thinly, it’s hard to imagine the masses not noticing her.

Details:

Release date: November 21
Record label: Tinashe Music
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