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Aquarius is Tinashe's debut studio album that was released on October 3, 2014 by RCA Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Aquarius 3:55
  2. Bet (featuring Devonté Hynes) 5:40
  3. Cold Sweat 5:12
  4. Nightfall (Interlude) 0:06
  5. 2 On (featuring Schoolboy Q) 3:50
  6. How Many Times (featuring Future) 3:36
  7. What Is There To Lose (Interlude) 0:31
  8. Pretend (featuring ASAP Rocky) 3:56
  9. All Hands On Deck 3:41
  10. Indigo Child (Interlude) 1:29
  11. Far Side Of The Moon 4:05
  12. The Calm (Interlude) 0:30
  13. Feels Like Vegas 4:01
  14. Thug Cry 3:28
  15. Deep In The Night (Interlude) 0:57
  16. Bated Breath 5:49
  17. Wildfire 3:37
  18. The Storm (Outro) 1:24

Bonus Tracks (Japanese and Best Buy album editions)

  1. Watch Me Work 4:29
  2. Vulnerable (featuring Travis Scott) 3:26

Album BackgroundEdit

In 2011, following the disbandment of the girl group The Stunners, Tinashe began pursuing her music career as a solo artist.

In February of 2012, she released her debut mixtape, "In Case We Die." The mixtape was supported by singles, the first being as a promotional song "Chainless" which was released to iTunes on December 19, 2011.

The mixtape also included the song "Boss", which was released as a free download on August 20, 2012, immediately after it was featured in an episode of the VH1 series "Single Ladies."

In July of 2012, Tinashe signed a deal with RCA Records.She subsequently released her second mixtape, Reverie, on September 6, 2012 through her official website.

Tinashe sought to reintroduce herself creatively & artistically, claiming that the album was an attempt to show fans who she is as an artist and additionally stated that it represents "a new season of music and art."

RecordingEdit

In 2013, Tinashe began work on her debut studio album. The recording sessions took place in Los Angeles, California, London, Atlanta, Georgia, New York, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tinashe worked with several producers including Clams Casino, Ryan Hemsworth Stuart Matthewman, Mike Will Made It, DJ Mustard, T-Minus, Boi-1da, Fisticuffs, Best Kept Secret, Ritz Reynolds and many more.

During an interview, Tinashe revealed that she had been recording and producing the album for two years, compared her mixtapes which she had created in a month.

Tinashe compared the process with her album as being different due to working with other producers; during her mixtapes, she made all the "decisions", but when recording the album she was working with other "creative people" and had to become "comfortable".

During the album recording Tinashe, recorded and produced at her home studio in her bedroom, where she produced some of the interludes included on the album, which she described as being "tighter" than her previous production.

During the album's recording, Tinashe avoided listening to music, so she was not heavily influenced by the work of other artists, stating she wanted the music to come from a "genuine place of inspiration."

The guest verses provided by Schoolboy Q and ASAP Rocky were recorded separately and sent to Tinashe via email, however her collaboration with Future was recorded in the studio with him in Atlanta.

Speaking about working with Future, Tinashe said, "I went to Atlanta and worked together on the song, and we wrote at the same time."

In December of 2013, Tinashe revealed she had almost completed the recording of the album with nearly 100 songs being recorded at that point, she also revealed that she was at the final stages of the album's production, in which she was picking and choosing the album's final track listing as well as choosing "key songs" to fill the gaps.

During the recording process of the album, Tinashe recorded more than 100 songs.

CompositionEdit

"Aquarius" explores a variety of genres including R&B, alternative R&B and pop.

Dean Van Nguyen of NME described the album's music as a mix of The Weeknd's "decadent alt-R&B" and Aaliyah's "seductive cyber-pop".

August Brown of the Los Angeles Times called the album's music "weird, wonderful world of experimental beat" which he compared to other PBR&B singers including FKA twigs and Kelela, continuing to say the album has rhythm and swing "yet cut through with melancholy."

Andy Kellman of AllMusic described the album's musical style as being mostly "low-lit, slinking in tempo, and stitched together with several interludes", which Kellman described as being influenced by Janet Jackson's album, "The Velvet Rope."

Dean Van Nguyen of NME noted the album's production for being "synthetic" and containing "[l]urid, crawling atmospherics led by beats and keys" along with "minimalism, thumping beats and electronics."

Andy Kellman from AllMusic described the production as being "laced with small details, subtle twists, and gradual intensification."

Sally-Anne Hurley from theMusic.com.au said the album "falls somewhere between mainstream, radio-friendly R&B and the electro, new-age alternative that's transformed the urban genre in a big way recently".

The album opens with the intro "Aquarius", which features a "spacey" production with a whispery soul aesthetic, followed by "Bet" which features Dev Hynes.

"Bet" is a "mystical" with "ride-or-die" lyrics, that brushed off "haters". The song closes with Devonté Hynes performing a guitar outro.

"Cold Sweat" is a dynamic song that sees Tinashe observing fake friends and overall sycophancy that comes with stardom. The song's production "begins at a crawl before evolving into a pendulum of synths", followed by the album's first interlude titled "Nightfall".

"2 On" is an electronic R&B song, marking a slight departure from the murky alternative R&B from her mixtapes. It features "effervescent keys", "synth-string accents", finger snaps, trap hi-hats, electro beats and distant chilly sighs.

The song features a sample of Sean Paul's 2005 single, "We Be Burnin'", with the line: "Just give me the trees and we can smoke it ya/Just give me the drink and we can pour it ya" featured in the middle eight. Lyrically, the song is a carpe-diem anthem about being "super hyped up, super extra out on whatever emotion that it is."

"All Hands on Deck" is a crunk&B song and comprises a thick bassline, and a pan flute breakdown.

Noted to be a shift from more sweet and coy-sounding tracks on the album, Tinashe solicits a snarling technique in her vocal delivery. The song's lyrical content was noted to combine a dance instructional with the subject of caustic post-break-up stunting, namely in the lyric, "Kiss the old me goodbye / She's dead and gone".

The song portrays a scenario of a woman retaining her confidence and embracing her love life after a break-up.

Chart PerformanceEdit

"Aquarius" debuted at #17 on the Billboard 200, selling 18,821 copies in its opening week. In its second week of sales, it dropped to #64 on the chart with 4,950 copies sold.

As of December 2015, the album had sold 70,000 copies in the United States. It peaked at #2 on Billboard's R&B Albums and #3 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. After its release, it charted on the R&B albums chart top 25 for 21 weeks.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Aquarius" received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, the album received an average score of 80, based on 14 reviews.

August Brown of the Los Angeles Times commented that the album "heralds an essential new voice, one that coheres 100 current ideas about women, sex, sadness and musical restlessness in one excellent album."

John Kennedy of Billboard described the album as "a lustful listen that often centers on either coming together or breaking apart."

Meaghan Garvey of Pitchfork wrote: "As [Tinashe has] shed the trappings of distinctly 2010s R&B for something less easily time-stamped, she's revealed a new and very telling set of inspirations, unmistakably the product of coming of age in the Y2K era of R&B, where Janet Jackson and Aaliyah gracefully countered choreography-happy, big-budget smashes with flashes of something darker and deeply personal."

Andy Kellman of AllMusic remarked that "Tinashe's voice is almost always quiet and soft, yet her ability is considerable, and she packs a wide variety of approaches. Another indicator of potential here is that she is listed first as the co-writer of all but one of the songs."

At Rolling Stone, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd praised the album as "savvy" and "self-assured", stating, "Throughout, Tinashe's sweet soprano sets up a hazy mood that's easy to get lost in."

Jabbari Weekes of Exclaim! called the album "solid" and concluded, "Although Aquarius may not rock the boat with innovation, it's more than confident in its stride, delivering an entertaining effort from the sultry singer."

Steve Yates of Q noted that "Aquarius has its generic aspects—the creamy vocals, drifting tempos and woozy electronics—but Tinashe's voice is pure and malleable, her lyrics suggestive and assertive."

Dean Van Nguyen of NME opined, "At 18 tracks, Aquarius may be overstuffed (the ambient interludes offer little) but it's an impressive statement that should elevate Tinashe far beyond the hype that has surrounded her mixtape releases so far."

Despite criticizing Tinashe's "tendency to over-stuff her songs with lyrics that veer cringe-inducingly between being both super literal and super opaque", Aimee Cliff of Fact expressed that "Aquarius is quite a complicated and accomplished album in that it's amplified the potential of the mixtapes, making Tinashe into an unquestionable contender for real popstar status, without sacrificing the weirdo introspective soul that made them so special." In a mixed review, Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani found Aquarius to be "remarkably consistent despite its myriad producers", but felt that "[t]oo much of the album [...] fails to live up to that standard", adding that Mike Will Made It's and Stargate's contributions "sound utterly generic when sandwiching more forward-minded tracks like 'Far Side of the Moon'"

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