One of the things that made the blogosphere fall in love with Tinashe was undoubtedly that she released her music for free in the form of the album-length mixtapes Black Water, In Case We Die and Reverie. Of course, her talent is what made these mixtapes stick. So many people wouldn’t have been downloading them if they were terrible, obviously. Last year she released her first album that people had to buy, Aquarius, and one had to wonder if she’d ever give away free music again. Well, she didn’t take long to answer that question, having just released a new mixtape EP called Amethyst. It features seven new tracks and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.
The EP opens with “Dreams Are Real,” which starts off with tender piano then it adds super heavy beats that drop and rattle your cage. It’s precisely the sort of dark and heavy R&B that Tinashe has become famous for. Her message — that dreams are real — is positive and her voice sounds light and pretty, as always, but the music could just as easily have been used for a hip-hop song. To that end, I wouldn’t be surprised if a rapper samples it. And I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t release a remix with a hip-hop verse in the near future. The song just begs for it. Get 2Chainz on the phone now. Better still, get her an unreleased Tupac verse.
“Wrong” follows and it’s as though The Weeknd produced a new Janet Jackson track with its slick, deep beats. “You know you’re wrong / So fucking wrong,” she sings, her voice sounding cool and confident. My only small complaint about Tinashe’s music is that sometimes her vocals are a bit drowned out by the beats; with such a beautiful voice, you’d think she’d want it in the forefront. But on “Wrong,” her voice is front and center and it’s ripe for the picking. “Wake up inside my castle / I banish you from my heart,” she sings, her voice crystal clear and as powerful as it is precious.
Next is a short song, “Something To Feel,” which clocks in at 2:22. I suppose some might consider it an interlude but it feels like a genuine song to me. “Even though it isn’t real / I need something to feel,” she sings before breathing heavy along to the song’s finger snapping. As the track nears its end, she delivers a rap verse. It’s not the best rap I’ve ever heard but I’d rather listen to this than Nicki Minaj. (No offense to Nicki Minaj fans. I liked her early mixtapes but her music hasn’t grabbed me much lately.)
Another track I’m especially fond of is “Worth It” featuring Iamsu!. It’s more like Sade than the dark stuff Tinashe is most known for. And you can hear a pop influence here. “You make it all worth it baby,” she sings, sounding like she’s aiming for Top 40. What I especially like about Iamsu!’s rap part is that it fits in with the rest of the song. It doesn’t feel forced, like it was just crammed in there for the sake of having a rapper on it, which is often what happens when pop songs have rap parts. Look at Juicy J’s part on Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” Amazing song, but the rap part sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t even seem to be about the song it’s on. That’s definitely not the case here. And thank the internet gods for leaking that no rap version of “Dark Horse.”
The EP comes to a close with “Just the Way I Like You,” which has this weird fluttering sound that’s a bit too loud in the mix for my tastes, making it hard to understand Tinashe often times. But I do otherwise like this song for being so experimental, meshing electronic elements with her R&B sound. It’s like The Weeknd featuring Sade as remixed by James Blake. It also features some guitar, which you don’t hear terribly often in Tinashe’s music.
All in all, this is a fantastic mixtape: it’s an instant classic, reminding me of old black and white films, all cool and classy without even trying. If you’ve liked Tinashe’s music in the past, you should quite like it. Even if you weren’t as crazy about Aquarius as you were about her mixtapes, I’d say give this one a listen. Maybe Aquarius made her try somewhat harder to have hits — I don’t think so, but I’ve heard many people say things like that. But she’s definitely in her purely creative, artsy zone here. These songs sound very indie-minded, heartfelt and inspired.