Album Review: 'Souled Out' (Jhene Aiko)

Rewind to  March 2011, the music industry gets introduced to a seemingly refreshing new artist. No big budgets; just a good hustle and a great product released (Sailing Soul(s)). The world was taken in by the fresh ambient R&B sound that this new girl was bringing to the table.

We all kept an eye on her, and each new release became more polarised as some aspects of her artistry, e.g. performances were not as strong as the work she put out. In all this however, her music never had much to fault. This was followed by a well received début EP (Sail Out). What struck a chord with the audiences about this new girl was the genuineness of her lyrics and her unforced artistry, which seemed to come from a pure and innocent place. All this being said, the biggest question was, is this new girl a mix tape artist only? Can she deliver when it comes to a full length album and be received worldwide with the same acclaim? Can this girl compete with current contemporaries and can she outdo her previously well received bodies of work?

Here at Toyazworld, we have taken time to listen to her début album and we have our verdict. Do we think she delivered? Our reviews are not from a fan perspective. It would be interesting to note that we here have very polarised opinions of this album. However, we have come up with a review that takes into account the points of view of people that do / do not like or even follow Jhene Aiko.

Production:  The production on this album is impeccable. One cannot fault the quality of the work that was put into ensuring that the beats were of stellar quality. It's important to note that her music is in a genre that heavily relies on the beat setting, as well as the mood for the song. This is generally a hard task but it seems that NO I:D really spent his time crafting and selecting beats (where he didn't produce himself, as executive producer) that set a perfect mood and tone for the album to be in line with the sound that Jhene has been crafting for the past 3 years. For this we rate the production a 4/5.

Vocals: If we pretend that we believe Jhene has the best voice, we would be lying. Her live showings are proof that where her vocals are concerned, there is big room for improvement. However, what she lacks in chops she makes up for in delivery and emotive showings. This is important to note, because the vocal production on this album is tailored to her voice. The beats and the arrangements were done perfectly to cover where her weaknesses lie, so as to increase the integrity of the record. For the vocal producers this was an amazing job done. However, if we have to speak about her vocal performance, we have to honestly rate this album 3/5.

Writing (Lyrical Content): The writing and lyrical content on this album is simply epic. Jhene's pen skills are unquestionably good. Her writing is very honest and genuine, and one can't say that they do not relate to at least one of her songs. Jhene's writing is the biggest part and component to her success because she is one of the very few that writes conscious lyrics and socially charged songs in a very engaging way without sounding preachy (e.g In Love We Trust [Feat Cassie Veggies]). For this we rate this album 4/5.

Cohesiveness: Herein lies the problem. This part will sound like a two faced opinion. However, it is our mission to be honest. The positive side of this, is that her album is very very cohesive, and the label managed to craft a body of work that can be genuinely classed as cohesive. However it seems that the label made her record a bunch of songs and the most dreary ones were picked (not to say they are boring), but it seems that the album was filled with songs that are too similar (Higher, In Love We Trust and Hoe). Yes, we know that she is mostly an ambient artist but there's only so many slow songs one can listen to without feeling downright depressed. For this we rate the album 2/5.

Entertainment Value (Tour ability): With what we felt about the cohesiveness of the album, we feel that a tour with only material from this album would hardly fill an arena. She would only be able to do small intimate venues with crowds that are genuinely fans and get her style. Her shows would not be for those that want to go to a show and have fun and shake what their mama's gave them. For this we rate the album 2.5 /5.

Single Picks.  - W.A.Y.S
                       - Lying King
                       - Promises (Feat. Miyagi & Namiko)

Overall Rating 62%