REVIEW: TINASHE - SONGS FOR YOU

Updated: Mar 19



Now if you don't like Tinashe, then you probably shouldn't read any further than this paragraph. But once you have finished reading it, I strongly advise having a long hard think about why you don't because I am just going to assume you've been raised badly.


Okay, perhaps that is a little dramatic but I am judging you and I really would encourage you to delve into her past mixtapes and albums because she really is the full package.


I'll give a very brief summary of her career. 2012 saw Tinashe release two very well-received mixtapes, In Case We Die and Reverie. In 2014 her debut single 2 On and debut album Aquarius were released. And in 2018, her second album Joyride was finally released.


The less said about Joyride, the better. I don't say this because the music was bad, I say this because it was a very frustrating time to be a Tinashe fan. None of this was through Tinashes lack of trying or due to her artistry, but more so to do with her incredibly incompetent record label RCA, who never seemed capable of investing time in her and when they half-heartedly did, they didn't have a clue how to market her.


So instead a bunch of singles were thrown out with little to no strategy/ promotion behind them. Singles that didn't always reflect who Tinashe was and wanted to be (Flame, I'm looking at you boo) and consequently this meant both the fans and general public were confused as to who she was trying to be – Pop, R&B, Alternative, when in reality Tinashe's USP is that she can be all 3 of those genres.


Wow, I said the less said about Joyride, the better and yet here I am rambling on about it. I guess I am still a little bitter that her Manchester show got canceled and that Me So Bad wasn't the massive hit it deserved to be.


Between all the chaos surrounding the Joyride release, she managed to release her mixtape Nightride which is a stunning body of work from start to finish, so I guess every cloud has it's silver lining, right?


But it's now 2019, Tinashe has escaped from RCA and 3 weeks ago she independently released her latest album/ project/ mixtape (whatever we are calling it) Songs For You.


Since its release, not a day has passed that I haven't listened to Songs For You in full. The week it came out was the week I was getting ready to go live with my first official blog and I knew instantly I wanted to review it. But before I shared my thoughts and Feelings (pun intended) on the project I wanted to make sure I sat with it for a little while to make sure I had absorbed all the lyrics, melodies, vocals and production because this is one of those records where you discover something different every time you listen to it. Plus, when you know the person who made this record is telling you a story from Track 1 to Track 15, the least you can do is have a little respect and give it the breathing space it deserves. And because each track is so vital to the feel and vibe of the album, I feel every track should be discussed.


So with that said, let's get on with it...


The record begins with Feelings; a track that sets the mood for the rest of the album perfectly, both sonically and topically. The track is very bass-heavy and judging by lyrics like “you still stuck in the past, I don't get mad, I get bags, pussy, best you done had, now you won't get this back” it would seem the song is about how she is moving on from a relationship and trying to be optimistic about the break-up. But the lyrics “lately I ain't been in my feelings” and “throw it in your face you gon' feel it” seem to slightly contradict each and suggest she's doing well but at the same time wants her ex to notice and miss her which suggests she isn't as over the situation as she might suggest.


Following Feelings is one of my personal favourites Life's Too Short. Initially, this was one of my least favourite tracks on the album but after really listening to the lyrics it really resonated with me. The opening lyrics “I know you still love me, it's been a long time without you” are repeated throughout the song and really highlight a certain sense of vulnerability; a reoccurring theme throughout the whole album.


Now if anybody has ever broken up with somebody that they love because it just wasn't right, this song is ridiculously relatable. “Now that you're gone, I got 20/20 vision 'bout us” implies how you can now see things clearer with a little bit of space – whether this is for the best or not, it sometimes doesn't change the love you have for someone. And sometimes in life, love is all about timing.


Singing the chorus mainly in her head voice over a minimalistic and slightly trippy production gives the song a dreamy vibe which is further highlighted with the gorgeous background vocals on the final chorus which sound spookily like Amerie.


Next up is the very hypnotic Hopscotch, which I can see going viral sometime soon on Tik Tok.


To me, this is a concept album about life after a relationship and to begin with, I found the placement of this song, as well as a few of the other uptempo/ trap-inspired tracks, to be a little jarring. But when I began thinking about how people deal with break-ups it began to make sense.


When I have gone through break-ups I tend to go out a lot as it tends to be a distraction from your true feelings. So with that considered I kind of understood why Hopscotch would follow such deep cuts like Feelings and Life's Too Short as like Tinashe says on the track “when I'm lonely, I always go up”.


It is certainly a swift change in tempo and it's very easy to see why it has become a favourite amongst both casual listeners and fans as it is a “non-stop bop, bop, bop”.


Every song on this album is worthy of its place on the tracklist but unfortunately, Stormy Weather is the track I come back to least.


The production of the song is very prominent due to how entrancing and slightly odd it sounds and because of this, I can almost envision it as a tour interlude (this is a compliment – honest!). The drums and the general vibe of the song slightly reminds me of Haunted by Beyonce (again – this is a compliment and was also used as part of a tour interlude).


The lyrics seem a little vague and more open for interpretation than a lot of the other songs but based of the lyrics “trust my instincts, hope that you feel me, seems like you a nice guy” I get the impression the song is about having an encounter with somebody solely to fill your sexual needs and not being apologetic for it.


We've all been there Tinashe...


From my least played track to my most played – Save Room For Us.


Remember when Tinashe proclaimed she was no longer caught up in her feelings? Well, this song begs to differ.


One of the more pop-influenced songs on the album with melodies and hooks for days it is very easy to see why this track has become the most-streamed song from Songs For You.


A commonly used proverb that we have all heard is “time is a healer” but this song is proof that this isn't always the case. “Heart goes numb when the days turn to weeks” emotes Tinashe on the opening line.


This song hit me as soon as I heard it as the lyrics, as simplistic as they are, really hit home. I think most people have had to see someone they love/ loved move on with someone else and all you can do is hope that one day they come back to you (“I trust you'll come back for us, someday”) and save space for you as the person they have moved on with will never offer the same type of love that you did.


Ooh, that shit is deep!


By no means is this song a lyrical masterpiece but the simplicity of the lyrics is what makes it so compelling. The sheer honesty and vulnerability that is woven within the words and the way they are delicately delivered make it virtually impossible to not feel something when listening to this track.


(brb - crying)


Next up is a song that is very reminiscent of songs from the early 2000's – Story of Us.


Again, this is another song I initially wrote off that soon became one of my favourites.


The song starts with the chorus and judging by lyrics like “you're the prince of my heart” and “I'm your queen to be” it sounds like your typical love song. But if it's remaining in context with the rest of the album, the first two lines of the first verse “Once upon a time you're mine, once upon a time we start to fall in love” suggest that the song is written about the past and thinking about what Tinashe once had and what could've been.


Obviously, this is only my interpretation of the song and I could be completely wrong but when I looked at the lyrics in this way, it made the song feel quite heartbreaking.


The background vocals on the choruses are quite haunting so this “castle of trust” that she and her ex built must've been a haunted one.


Die A Little Bit, the first song released from this album is perhaps the most atypical track on the whole record. Everything from the beat, the lyrics, and the melody are all slightly obscure but somehow it works.


Tinashe recently revealed to Genius that this song is about the dark side of partying too much and the LA lifestyle and she wanted that message to be slightly hidden in a song that you could dance, drink and party to.


She also mentioned that the song is open to personal interpretation and before watching her interview about its meaning, the way I interpreted the lyrics were that it was about partying too much and looking for distractions to block out the pain of a break-up (“Searching for something in someone without a soul”). So, I guess I wasn't too far off, right?


The addition of Ms. Banks totally makes the song. Her London accent and the way she rides the beat take the song to another level and the call and response that she and Tinashe do on the first chorus is one of the songs many highlights.


I'll admit I was initially a little taken back by the sample used in the middle and end of the song and I didn't really understand the reason behind it. But once I found out it was from an old video of her brothers Thulani and Kudzai, I had a little “aww” moment and now I couldn't imagine the song without their parts.


Despite knowing partying and drowning her sorrows isn't curing her broken heart, Perfect Crime is suggesting she still needs to get it out of her system.


It was just a few songs ago that Tinashe was hoping that her and her ex would eventually end up back together but on Perfect Crime, she's past that stage and doesn't want anything to do with them as she was left far too hurt (“Don't call, I don't wanna think about us at all, it still hurts way too much, bleed out, from the knife here in my chest that you left, my heart's not healing up).


This is another one of my favourite tracks and gives me major Janet Jackson vibes especially with the opening lines “Quick, what's better than me? But I don't give a shit what you sayin' to me”.


Cash Race is next in line and just like a couple of other tracks on the album, I wasn't immediately that bothered about this song. But over time I realised there was a reason I couldn't get “Sheesh, new fashion, R.I.P. your last bitch” out of my brain.


This song now sits in my top 5 of the whole album and would most definitely be my song of choice if I am feeling myself.


The most distinctive part of the track is how it switches halfway through and blends so organically into another song. To make the transition so seamless would not have been an easy job I imagine so Hitmaka, Turn Me Up Josh, Poo Beats and Go Grizzly who all assisted in the production of the track deserve a shout out.


This is not the only track on the album that has a second part to it and I am sure I read somewhere that Tinashe did this to fit more songs on the album.


The context of the song seems to be quite boastful with lyrics such as “it's a cash race, you in last place”, “I know I'm the shit, I'm sure I'm the shit” as well as name dropping Fendi, Birkin, and Prada.


Conceptually I personally think this song refers to that stage in a break-up when you are trying to put on this front that you are completely fine and normal and the best way you know how to do it is to be boastful and overly confident. A fan did ask Tinashe on Twitter what the song was about and she said it was about “when you are sad you just want to feel like a bad ass bitch (potentially overcompensating)" which kind of compliments my theory on the track.


Another song that incorporates a second part is Link Up and it's also another boastful track intended to exude self-confidence and self-love.


I wouldn't say this is one of my favourite tracks but every time it comes on I do feel like a bad bitch and I am not mad about that. I am also not mad about the line “Call me 'Nashe Houdini, doing tricks with a saw, for my next act, watch-watch me cut these bitches off”. Ms. Nashe (if ya nasty) is a lyrical genius!


After releasing Die A Little Bit, Tinashe released another track before dropping Songs For You, this time it was more of a subdued track entitled Touch & Go.


Touch & Go seems to address the limbo we are often in when a relationship ends when you want things to go back to how they used to be but you seem to be the only person willing to try. The lyrics “I just wanna fix this, but you don't wanna try, if you don't wanna be here, why you always on my line?” seems to suggest that her ex is always messaging/ calling and can't seem to let go but at the same time isn't willing to put in the work to help get them back on track.


It would appear Tinashe is more than willing to put the effort in and admit she is partly responsible for the way things ended with the way she pleadingly sings “meet me in the middle”.


One of my favourite lyrics on the track is the line “I just need to know if you still need me” as to express such a feeling of wanting to be needed so despairingly really highlights the vulnerability within Tinashe and adds such a warmness to the song.


But perhaps the highlight of the whole song is the end (no shade).


The outro of the song features a string section echoing the melody of the chorus and the result is remarkable. It really adds a haunting dimension to the track and makes it even more touching (pun not intended) than it already was.


As if I wasn't already an emotional wreck after Touch & Go, Tinashe has to come through and top it all off with Know Better.


Tissues at the ready girls...


Like Cash Race and Link Up, this is two songs in one and at 6 minutes and 56 seconds long it is worth every second despite still not feeling long enough.


Tinashe could not get any more vulnerable than she does on this song as she openly declares how much she wants to kiss and love her ex and admits that she still thinks about them and wonders how they are. But ultimately she knows better, she won't answer their calls anymore and actively expresses her anger at her ex-lover when she passionately sings “All those nights I cried over us, where were you then?”.


Things really take a turn when the second part of the song kicks in and Tinashe lets you know just how much she is suffering from the demise of this relationship.


“When I fall in love, I guess I'm always gonna stay” she says, implying she loves hard and admitting she is unable to move on from the past she sings “living like a ghost, I'm haunted, all I want is to feel like the old me”.


One of the lyrics that really cut me deep is “what's another break up to a girl like me?”. It is just sad to know that someone other than me is almost accepting that they're not destined for long-term love and always expects things to end.


The strings are, again, a beautiful addition to a beautiful song.


Now, in a complete turn of events, Tinashe is no longer drunk-crying over her ex and has found a new dickstraction and is more than happy to share every gory detail about it in So Much Better.


Talk about a 180-degree turn...


I would not advise anybody to listen to this song whilst their Grandmother is around as you may feel responsible for the heart attack she will inevitably have when she hears lyrics like “I'ma sit on top of your face like fuck a conversation” and “could tell you needed dick, you spent a long time cumming”.


The song is pure filth and I absolutely live for it. I'm listening and I'm thinking “Yes! Go and steal somebody else's man Tinashe. List off all of your bedroom accolades Tinashe. Give me that sex anthem I never knew I needed Tinashe”.


Something I found really interesting about this song is that Tinashe actually interpolates one of her own songs Midnight Sun from her mixtape Black Water on the second verse of this track.


We love a girl who recycles!


My only complaint with So Much Better is that I really could've done with a palate cleanser before listening to it as going from the extremely emotional Know Better to the hyper horny So Much Better was a little overwhelming for my poor brain who didn't know whether it should be mourning over an ex or getting aroused at G-Eazy telling me he wanted to fuck me when we left the studio.


But playing us out is Remember When which is simply Tinashe's vocals accompanied by a guitar.


The song sees Tinashe reminiscing about her past relationship and pretty much acknowledging that she knows it's over for good but wants her ex to know that she meant every word she said and every promise she ever made throughout their relationship.


I see the chorus “do you remember when we went to the park at night, I told you how I felt, I'll never forget” as Tinashes way of only taking the good things from the relationship in order for them to be able to move on with no hard feelings. And by doing this and picking up the pieces of the mess they both made, she can feel like herself again, as she sings on the second verse.


Phew!


What an album! What a woman! What a treat!


As we conclude, I would firstly like to apologise for rambling on as much as I did but I felt this album deserved a detailed review as it is so multilayered that I felt if I just skimmed through or cherry-picked 5 or 6 tracks I would be doing the album and Tinashe a huge disservice.


This is without a doubt my album of the year.


I know that is quite a big statement to make as we have had a lot of good albums released in 2019 but none of them have left as much of an impact on me as Songs For You did.


Of course, it helps that I am a huge Tinashe fan and it fills me with such joy and excitement to see her release a project where she has been able to truly hone in on just what it is that makes her such a star.


Tinashe can do pop. Tinashe can do R&B. Tinashe can do Alternative. And this is the first time where these 3 versions of Tinashe have been able to blend together so organically. In my opinion, the reason for this is Tinashe finally being able to take full control due of her sound and vision with no record label trying to micromanage her and ultimately damaging her creative process and craft.


If we ignore my love for Tinashe and the underdog status she has been holding for many years now, I think what makes this album so special to me is being able to relate.


I can't speak on behalf of anybody else, but songs like Save Room For Us, Life's Too Short, Know Better and Touch & Go really stand out to me due to their lyrical content.


There is something so endearing hearing somebody else being able to verbalise the feelings of hope and hopelessness that I feel when a relationship has ultimately ended and I think that is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to this album.


So, thank you for taking the time to read this. Well done if you managed to endure the whole thing and I certainly won't be writing another album review for a very long time.


Bye.


- Jordan

 

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