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Tinashe - 333 (Album Review)

Monday, 16 August 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

At 28, Tinashe has packed a lot into a short career. Starting out in a manufactured girl group, The Stunners, she then signed with major label RCA as a solo artist and recorded three albums, scoring several hit singles—the most notable being 2 On (feat. ScHoolboy Q). Parting company with the label in 2018, Tinashe released the critically praised ‘Songs for You’. ‘333’ is the follow up, and it continues to build a catalogue of diverse, listenable R&B.

The most immediate moment here is Bouncin’, a slick groover with a gorgeous ephemeral synth riff and taut melodies. Tinashe’s vocal here is sexy and assertive: “I’ve been sending dirty pics / hope they make it to the cloud.” And, while the track doesn’t quite hit the heights promised by that initial synth drop, it lives long in the memory.

Hot on its trail is X, featuring the marvellously lewd Jeremih. Machine-tooled to embarrass parents, this also features diaphanous synths and trap rhythms that feel current and fresh.

While it would likely be bleeped into oblivion by radio censors, it remains one of the most earwormy cuts on the record.

That said, Tinashe’s versatility doesn’t always mean that our interest is maintained. Pasadena is a cool summer track with skipping rhythms and sweet, watery guitar. But despite elegant vocal performances—both from Tinashe and guest rapper Buddy—it falls just on the wrong side of bland. Similarly, closer It’s a Wrap is a bit of a damp squib, delivering neither a fanfare finale nor satisfying emotional punch.

The track also features a couple of weird cameos, from Quiet Child and Kudzai, that add nothing. It’s a creative move that smacks of commercial choices rather than artistic vision. All of which means that the album levels out at mediocre, which is a bit surprising given the promise of the first half. Perhaps this is a case of not enough risks having been taken, nor freedom deployed. 

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