Artist: Jhene Aiko
Album: Souled Out
Jhene Aiko, the wounded-healer that captivated our hearts through her hypnotizing angelic, seductive, and sultry voice, has finally laid all anticipation to rest as she releases her debut studio album Souled Out.
Jhene, who is no new comer to the music industry (reffer back to when B2K was running the R&B scene and you’ll know what I’m talking about) reintroduced herself in 2011 with the mixtape Sailing Soul(s). Sailing Soul(s) generated enough attention towards Aiko which embarked her on a growing musical journey.
Since then we’ve heard Jhene blossom and the LA native has earned our undivided attention as she seeped her way towards the limelight through her successful 2013 6-track EP Sail Out, and features alongside rap trend-setters ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Drake.
Souled Out is Aiko’s first major label debut under the Def Jam/Artium imprint and guarantees to make a meaningful impact to many.
For those familiar with Jhene Aiko’s musical catalog, Souled Out is an extensive diary entry of the pages she’s already shared with us. The songstress continues to open up about heartbreaks, deciet, self-discovery, and the strength to heal from all of life’s experinces that would most likely defeat a young woman with a warm heart in a cold world.
The album begins with "Limbo Limbo Limbo" where Jhene recalls a love ride that took the wrong turn as she claims, "you were not this type of guy, Always set aside all your extra pride. Then you started trippin’ different b*****s on the side."
"W.A.Y.S." (Why Aren’t You Smiling) has Jhene being guided towards the light at the end of the tunnel as she sings "At fourty-four minutes to four an angel walked up to my door, opened the windows to my soul… gotta keep going, gotta keep going."
The opening sentence is a reference to “3:16” (44 minutes to 4), which is not only the title to a personal track about depression, addiction, destructive love and suicide off her last project, but also a set of numbers that hold great significance to the singer as she once explained to Fader Magazine that it symbolizes her birth date- March 16, but more significantly one of her favorite bible verses.
Track 3 is the previously released single with Cocaine 80s "To Live & Die". Jhene finds herself engulfed in her infatuation with love as she claims to "live by the love, die by the love" and then channeling into her deepest pain on her 50 Cent steelo as she sings “Now many men Many, many, many men, Wish death upon me. Have mercy on me.”
"Spotless Mind" is one of my favorite tracks on this album. Over a set of strings, Jhene again re-surfaces a lost romance and causes her to reflect and define herself as a wanderer.
"Started as a love song
24 years in the making
Moving from place to places
Never really settled down…
I got so used to the changes
Moving from stranger to strangest
You can face it, I am so crazy…”
For those who’ve listened to her early work on Sailing Souls, “Stranger” is a track depicting the strange men who’ve came into her life only seeking one thing. She places her latest love interest on that track under the same title after discovering he was not true and not what he was showing her to be- he was just the same stranger. On this verse of “Spotless Mind” she seems to recall those experiences as to what has now shaped her into the woman she is- “Moving from stranger to strangest…I’m a wanderer.”
Jhene finds herself in love with a man who has her devoted attention on "It’s Cool".She express her love and at the same time tries to fight the feeling "But it’s cool, We gotta be nothing…It’s on you, it’s on you, it’s on you, It’s on you, cause I’m cool…", and then places the verdict on him. Conflicted with a battle between her heart and mind she continues to confess "And I’m not even gonna front, At first I was just tryna f*** But you have got me so in love. So deep in love, so please be love."
"Lyin King" is another outstanding track on Souled Out. This track stands side-by-side to “The Worst”, she’s dissapointed and mad, but in contrary, this track also finds Jhene in a accepting, understanding, and optimistic state of mind about her situation.
Jhene’s most powerful realization comes with the verse, "Mr. Serial Lover, I wish your mother loved you like I could’ve, That way you would’ve known how to love a woman. Mr. Conditional Lover, I wish your father would’ve stayed… If you don’t learn you’ll never know a good thing." She then decides to give him a bit of wordly advice that’s enough to break a man, "It’s okay, you just don’t know no better, you’re better being alone. Hope you find comfort in all of the lies that you told…But it’s okay, I’m going to find my way. But as for you, I cannot say the same. If you don’t learn, you’ll never know a good thing."
On "Wading" Jhene questions whether she should wait around for something that may never come, and she pleads mercy as she attempts to speak some sense into her lover- “Picture me rolling, Out in the open with some other man I know.”
Track 8 is the latest single off this album "The Pressure", and it is the only track that finds Jhene indulging in extreme vocal seduction.
It is no secret that Jhene has been through her fair share of painful heartbreaks (afterall that’s what most of her music is about) and on "Brave" she admires a mans bravery to love her and she proceeds with a fair warning "Please don’t take my hand if you don’t plan to Take a stand and be a man who understands that I’m no walk in the park. All these scars on my heart, It’s so dark here."
I’m extremely fascinated with the track that follows- “Eternal Sunshine”. Over a dreamy set of piano keys Jhene Aiko bares her soul. There’s really no precise words to explain how this track makes me feel, all I know is that I feel when I listen to it. In all honestly I find myself in tears singing along to this every time I listen. In a nut shell, this track is simply about acceptance and being at peace with oneself. Alot of things in this life we have no control over, some we choose to experience- good and bad, sweet and bitter, and at the end of it all it’s about recalling the good times lived and holding no grudges over our mistakes and the wrong done onto us.
"Promises" is a touching track dedicated to her daughter Nami and brother Miyagi. The first verse is an open heart-cutting letter to Nami, as Jhene’s career takes off to great heights there also comes the guilt and the imbalance within her mother role, but she reassures her daughter that she’s doing all of this for her.
"I’ve been coming home late night, I’ve been sleeping past day light. I’m waking up you’re not by my side, Baby that ain’t right. I wanna be there with you, I really do be missing you…",
she sings away as Nami adlibs "promise I’ll be alright". The second verse goes out to her deceased brother. In this verse she promises to make him proud, and to not worry about her- "promise I’ll be alright".
Common joins Aiko on "Pretty Bird (Freestyle)",it wraps up the album in the most exquisite way. Jhene sends out a positive message to those who find themselves lost, damaged, and helpless as she reminds them “Pretty bird, Please don’t cry, you can fly…There’s a blinding light inside of you And they can not deny you”. A message that only Common could end so well through spoken word with meaningful qoutable lines:
"Come fly, un-die, be born again
I’ve seen the strongest of them be torn from men
Ripped apart and get put back together
Them the ones with the most beautiful feathers”
A track with the sole message to keep going- persevere.
The deluxe version of this album includes "Remember" and "Blue Dream" which fall nothing short from what she has delivered with the previous 12 tracks. Out of the two “Blue Dream” wins a place in my heart.
What I find most intriguing about Jhene is her ability to make pain sound so beautiful. Jhene is a wounded-healer in all sense of the word. She seems to be cut completely open by her life and love experiences and she uses music to stitch herself back together- and as she does so, I know she is also mending the wounds of alot of her listeners in the process.
Some of you men might not dig this emotional commotion, but I’m sure at one point you’ll find yourself listening to a bashing or a deep love-infatuated track from the L.A. songstress dedicated to you from your lady- all depends on how you treat her.
Jhene is known for getting us ladies into our feelings, so expect a lot of Souled Out quotes flooding social networks posts.
Jhene Aiko delivers an exceptional debut with Souled Out. Aiko proves to be in a league of her own, and she is about to knock the ball out the park with this one, I’m sure.
Make sure you give this album a close listen.
Souled Out is now available in-stores and on iTunes.
Purchase Album: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/souled-out-deluxe/id911912619