Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jhené Aiko has liberated her debut project, the Sail Out EP, via Island Def Jam Music Group.
Fans can also stream “Sail Out” via RefinedHype....Read the full album review
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DJBooth Album Review
Where is Jhene’s vocal range? You just keep waiting on it to arrive, but it never does, like a part-midnight food delivery that never arrives, or the retrospectively-absurd Christmas present you wanted for years and never received. Once a certain threshold is surpassed, once you realize that Santa or your parents or whoever else will not or cannot grant you your wish, you either give up or stop caring about this childhood desire and move on. Will a similar affect plague the burgeoning career of the born-and-bred L.A. singer?
Upon first listening to Aiko’s recently released Def Jam EP, Sail Out, a sense of emptiness might ensue. There’s an indefinite dreaminess to her work and enough growing hype to suggest that a significance hides within, that an onion effect is at play and surely responsible for the initial idleness. But peeling those layers back and combing the seven tracks a dozen more times yields more of the same.
Sameness is the central issue with all of Jhene’s music. A brief revisiting of her 2010 feature on Kendrick Lamar’s stellar track Growing Apart (To Get Closer) from his mixtape Overly Dedicated proves that the lack of variety spans years. Creating a particular, distinctive sound is vital for the success, survival and perceived quality of an artist, but that sound requires some level of captivation. The monotonous crooner still continues to represent herself as an artist in possession of a single function, like a second-string player with enough non-sports-related appeal to garner some commercial looks.
Everything in life serves some purpose, though, and while the tonal scope surely has its limits the music compiling Sail Out works well in certain atmospheres. Highly accessible, pop-friendly guitar strumming makes the Childish Gambino-assisted single, Bed Peace, a drowsy assault on radio’s airwaves. Aiko’s vocals drip with reverb, the parameters of her voice seemingly extended by a submerging echo. Line endings often seep into the backing instrumentation like leaking water through a ceiling. This effect interchangeably exists on nearly every record, and the beat consequently provides the primary differences between one track and another.
The backdrops are largely responsible for any perception of medley; sinister drums and surrounding sounds which compose 3:16AM differ greatly from the hazed synths of, Stay Ready (What A Life). One might also think that several high-profile hip-hop features would prevent an R&B project like this from reaching the unfortunate plateau of boredom. However, all four supporting artists do little to interrupt the succession of dullness. Gambino’s aforementioned presence on Bed Peace is impressive, yet even his delivery would leave little more than a straight, horizontal line on a vocal seismograph. King Kendrick’s guest spot on Stay Ready is similarly underwhelming; Lamar’s voice does not deviate from a safe middle ground, and the lack of risks broaden to the project as a whole.
Sail Out works best under specific circumstances which revolve around a minimal focus towards the music itself. The lightly accented, cloudy textures form the audio equivalent of a smoky, fog filled room that induces a sleep-like state. At its best, the California singer offers sweet but forgettable elevator music, a major label-backed product that never fails in taking advantage of her alluring physical image (see: album artwork). Frankly, it is tempting to wish for undiscovered potential in this tenured-but-youthful singer’s small, 5’2” frame. Some years ago, with far less widely known material available, Jhene had the internet buzzing. Admittedly, I myself once looked forward to songs with her name attached and hoped for her success, but years have slipped away and Jhene continues to occupy the space of a one-dimensional artist. As 2013 inches towards its final days, I cannot help but wonder if her days under a just-forming spotlight are correspondingly numbered.
Listen to More: Jhené Aiko Written by Alex Siber
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"In Love We Trust" (2011)
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