Two years ago, I was privileged enough to see Nas live at The Norva on his Life Is Good tour. While Lauryn Hill was opening at some of the stops, she did not make it to Norfolk. To replace her was the newcomer Jhene Aiko, which came after her deal with Def Jam. In 2012, Jhene Aiko was very shy and distant from the audience, which had me reluctant to give her music a chance. Now two years later, I can say that she won my attention. Time changes a lot and even though Jhene Aiko is still shy, musically she has grown very much!
Her EP Sail Out showed that, which led her to make a mark on the charts with The Worst. Now with the release of her debut album Souled Out, Aiko shows the growth through her songwriting and the confidence in her talents which allows her to sing more freely, instead of holding her talents back from her fans.
Souled Out was supported by lead singles To Love & Die, The Pressure, and Spotless Mind. However, it was The Worst that made the promotion easier, as it became one of the first tracks to give Aiko heavy radioplay. Nevertheless, these singles presented the best outcomes from Souled Out, which dependent on how you look at it can be a good or bad thing.
The good thing is that as a fan it gets you excited for what is to come from the album. Then the bad is that, when you listen to Souled Out, there is not much more to offer. Granted, there are many good, okay tracks on the album, but collectively Souled Out is not a standout compilation, especially compared to Sail Out. Her strongest vocal track comes with the second record on the album, W.A.Y.S. Standing for “Why Aren’t You Smiling”, the postivity that Aiko lives by shows on this track, as she prompts all of the listeners to keep going, no matter what.
Lastly, Promises is one that you will definitely need a box of Kleenex for. The track features her daughter Namiko and is touching having the two sing along together, as Namiko promises her mother that she will be alright. On the second half of the track, Aiko pays tribute to her brother Miyagi, who she lost to cancer last year. She goes on to promise that even on her most trying days, she will be alright. If you have even close to a pinch of an emotional heart, this song is guaranteed to bring you to tears.
Other than those three standouts, Souled Out shows that although Aiko has grown over time, she musically still has a ways to go. Similar melodies and musical arrangements are what drown the album out, leading the tracks to not have a standout element between them. As always, Souled Out is a very personal, revealing piece of work from Aiko, which will guarantee her fan base to stick around and stay dedicated for more songs that they can relate and learn from.
Personal Favorites: The Pressure, Spotless Mind, Promises
Purchase Souled Out here!