Music review: Jhene Aiko – Sail Out EP
Jhene Aiko possesses an angelic voice with demonic tendencies and effortlessly croons an airy vocal that fills up speakers whilst at the same time has a underlying raspiness that comes through to add attitude and cheek. If you don’t get this impression from her vocals then you certainly will from the lyrics she writes. The pint sized R’n’B songstress can get quite raunchy and explicit with her subject matter and slips in the occasional curse word matching her sweet yet sexy image. Since the release of 2011’s Sailing Soul(s) Jhene Aiko has been quiet but managed to stay relevant over the past two years through her Tog Dawg Entertainment affiliation and Def Jam signee status; not to mention her numerous collaborations. Sail Out features seven tracks and serves as an appetiser to her debut album Souled Out set for release in 2014.
The EP kicks of with The Vapors. An 808 heavy instrumental we’ve become accustom to hearing from Jhene. Setting the atmosphere in the background is a repetitive synth piano and stabbing strings. This song sees Jhene trying to entice a lost lover to have relations on the ‘vapors’ to save their relationship. Using clever puns such as “you stay on your grind” and “rolling in my ride” it’s safe to assume the vapor is marijuana. Pulsing electronic sounds build up towards the third verse featuring Californian rapper Vince Staples who carries on the marijuana theme with lines such as “eyes red from crying, the perfect way to disguise it you was blinded by our fate”.
The EP switches up the tempo with the quirky Bed Peace featuring Childish Gambino. The song is from the perspective of a couple falling in love and acting recklessly in doing so “gotta call your job tell em’ you won’t make it, ain’t nobody here baby lets get wasted”. Jhene’s song writing is lazy on this track and Childish Gambino fails to impress however this song has to be taken at face value as a bit of fun with pop elements that will have teenage girls reciting the lyrics.
Stay Ready (What A Life) returns to the ambient feeling of The Vapors but with a more subtle and seductive approach. Alongside rap phenomenon Kendrick Lamar the lyrical content is forced to upgrade with the pair trading verses in an awe inspiring display of penmanship. Jhene’s very poetical verse takes us on a journey through different dimensions and lifetimes where two individuals find each other to experience a magical moment. Kendrick Lamar takes a more traditional approach to the beginning of his verse by rapping about the sexual adventures the two may have but closes out the verse with “only cause you are timeless, the universe energy doesn’t lie and this chemistry is infinity” matching the metaphorical style of Jhene’s verse. The beat then mellows out and enters into the short and simple What A Life portion of the song where Jhene continues her poetic excellence, “the truth aint pretty but coming out that pretty mouth the truth is fitting”. What A Life is a welcome addition to the end of this song.
There’s not much to say about WTH which takes us on a trippy hallucinogenic experience with guest appearance from Ab-Soul who steals the shows with vivid imagery from a self reflecting position however this track passes by very quickly and fails to make an impact.
The Worst begins with bouncing piano chords that play throughout automatically giving the listener a more familiar R’n’B sound in comparison to the other tracks on this EP. Up until this point Jhene has kept her vocals within a comfort zone but finally unleashes it on this track giving an refreshing emotional performance which the EP has lacked up until this point.
3.16 am takes us on drug infused roller-coaster of a track showing the emotions between a couple who appear to be addicts. At first the couple are obsessed with each other when her feelings for him start to become sour but she manages to rekindle her feelings through their common love of drugs and then the tables turn and her sour feelings become his. A lot of the meaning behind this track is up for interpretation allowing the listener to take away the most suitable meaning for them, the sign of a great songwriter.
The last track Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle) is reminiscent of a moment in a Kanye West concert where he sprats spills out his emotions in an open and truthful manner backed by auto-tune and is essentially Jhene’s version of that. It seems all the emotion missing from this EP was saved for the finale as the listener gets taken on a brutally honest story of loyalty and betrayal with a somewhat heart wrenching twist.
Overall Sail Out got repetitive and needed an injection of excitment to prevent it from becoming boring at times but with that said the level of song writing alone is enough to surpass most R’n’B albums yet along EP’s. The unique production style compliments Jhene Aiko’s lethargic vocal but when Jhene does decide to let her guard down and push her vocals to vulnerable places it creates the best moments on this project that are worth revisiting over and over.