Black Water * Tinashe * Alt. R&B * November 26, 2013

You might not know Tinashe on sight, but you have more than likely heard one of her songs in the past two years.

Starting out in 2007 with The Stunners, a girl group founded by singer Vitamin C, the Kentucky native was able to learn the aspects of the business (writing, promotion, recording, etc.) before the group disbanded in 2011 without releasing an album. Tinashe started her solo career shortly after that, releasing her first mixtape, In Case We Die, less than 7 months later. The sound was different than what was being played on terrestrial radio at the time, mixing R&B, pop, and indie beats with hip-hop-like lyricism for something truly unique. The tape received so much positive buzz that she was signed to RCA Records and, to maintain the heat, she released what would become another critically acclaimed mixtape, Reverie.

After more than a year of work on her first mainstream release, Tinashe decided to give us a taste of what we’re in store for with the release of her third mixtape, Black Water. But not with the backing of a major recording studio, can she maintain the sound that made her stand out?

1.  Black Water – Serving as an official introduction to a broader audience, it’s really good. The lyrics evoke a strong sense of imagery.

2.  Before the Storm – Outro for the previous song.

3.  Vulnerable – The first single from this mixtape. The premise of the song is about a woman attempting to seduce a man (who has possibly turned her down before) while he is high. If this were sung by a man, it would have a strong sexual predator vibe, but this works for a female singer. The Travis Scott feature does seem to detract from the song.

4.  Secret Weapon – The song is about entrancing a man who is intent on a one-night stand. It’s pretty standard vocally and not at all her best lyrical work. Her tone is impressive, though, as she traverses several octaves easily.

5.  Video Tapes – An interlude that showcases a home video of Tinashe and her father singing together.

6.  Midnight Sun – A beautiful song about giving support to a loved one. I especially love the illusion of a midnight sun leading someone through the dark times. The softness of her voice lends to the theme and really does give the song a comforting air.

7.  1 for Me – An average song about looking for the perfect love. The opening line, There’s a freak in here, reminds me of Robbie Williams A Place to Crash, but I don’t think that was intentional.

8.  Daybreak – An instrumental interlude. It probably should have proceeded the previous song, and may have been intended to as this track and the previous one share the same track number (an accident, I’m sure).

9.  Fugitive – An excellent song about a partner that accuses her of every wrong thing he’s done in their relationship. The lyrics showcase another strong illusion. The biggest problem with it is that most people who hear it wish the song was longer.

10.  Stunt – Tinashe is either telling fans or her man that she can always switch it up. It’s just a basic brag song, but the vocals and beatwork make it oddly compelling and worth more than one listen.

11.  Just a Taste – Immediately upon turning this song on, you will recognize the Tony! Toni! Tone! Sample. The premise is about how it feels as you fall in love with someone. It follows the “your love is my drug” model for these types of songs. The lyric work is average but the vocals and production make it come out a little above average.

12.  Middle of Nowhere – Again, Tinashe’s lyrics take what could have been an average breakup song and turned into poetry using desert illusions. It is the strongest track lyrically and definitely a standout.

13.  Ain’t Ready – The outro. This is the last mixtape Tinashe will release before her official album comes out (she has two others that will be posted separately).

Ultimately this is a very satisfying mixtape that will leave you wanting more, just in time for the release of Aquarius later this year. Tinashe has definitely progressed as a singer and performer since she first broke onto the scene and we look forward to what she has to offer in the future.

Rating: 4.0