Oh Jhene Aiko. Once so full of promise, now somehow languishing in the lower reaches of exciting new R&B. Where initially felt she’d deliver hope and a sea change in the way the genre was going, she succumbed to the over-produced commercialised sounds that may have earned her public favour, if only at the cost of artistic credibility.
Until now. Trip – her surprise new album – is a series of sketches and fully-formed ideas, but ultimately it becomes the another disappointing Jhene Aiko collection after her early mixtapes. It’s frustrating to say the least, especially when you take the dreamlike Jukai, for example. It’s a gorgeous meditation on mortality that sees Aiko philosophise over guitar-driven production. It’s measured, it’s unusual, and it’s exactly the surprising thing that befits her talent.
But that all goes out of the window when there’s the usual navel-gazing and over-reliance on a cadence that has gotten her this far. While We’re Young is the early offender, but it’s peppered through this 22 (yes, 22) track album; quality control has never been Jhene Aiko’s strong suit, and here more than ever there’s this everlasting feeling that a solid edit would have made this record even punchier.
Still, there’s a small amount here to enjoy, and that’s probably because there’s so much here that you’re bound to find something to like. New Balance is a sweet enough ballad, and while nothing matches that early high of Jukai, You Are Here recalls her early days of Stranger as Aiko clearly relishes in playing under the darker shadows of R&B. The rest is just a run of the same old yawning, with Trip neither tapping into the psychedelia its title promises nor offering anything remotely new in both sound or insight. Even a Brandy cover can’t save it in the end, as this is one trip we could have happily done without taking.