In the age of music we live in, it can be difficult for a musician to make it big with low key and slow music that focuses on lyrics and feelings. If you turn on any new music playlist or radio station, pretty much all of the music is going to be high energy trap music or electro-pop. But Jhenè had had major success in this era making stripped back neo-r&b, reminiscent of artists like Sadè or Erykah Badu. She focuses on feelings and emotions and interpersonal relationships in her music, which is so fresh to listen to when every song you hear these days is so materialistic. Her music speaks to the soul, and whenever I need to take a break or calm my emotions I listen to it. Jhenè’s long-winded and sometimes difficult life journey so far is expressed sonically and lyrically in her music so much, and I feel like one of the reasons she is so beloved is because she seems so relatable. Listening to her feels like listening to a friend, as opposed to feeling like the person you’re listening to is untouchable or somewhere I will probably never be in life. Her art is so beautiful and relatable.
Jhenè grew up in Los Angeles to a middle-class family kind of on the edge of the South Central hood. She started pursuing music at a very young age, signing a record deal at the age of 12 with Epic Records. She contributed backing vocals to many tracks for early 2000s R&B B2K, the group that got the career of Omarion started. She was supposed to release a record at 15 but did not like the direction the record label wanted her to go and got out of her record contract to focus on school. Then when she was 20, she gave birth to her daughter Namiko, and her priorities obviously shifted for a while. She did not actually release her first solo project until 2011 and did it on her website with no label support.
Jhenè’s previous connection to the music industry gained her a lot of great features for her first solo project. This first mixtape, called “Sailing Souls,” had contributions from Drake, Kanye, and Miguel. Drake and Miguel were rising stars at this time and Kanye had just put out the iconic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so these features really helped turn her into a rising star as well. Around this same time she was featured on a lot of songs by artists from the TDE music collective, and since Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar were blowing up and this time as well, this was also good for her career. The idea of sailing has always been a recurring theme in her music, and she has stated she feels like her soul sails or floats throughout the universe, and she never forces herself in any direction. She goes wherever the wind takes her.
Her next project, Sailed Out, is the record that truly propelled her into stardom, and to the forefront of the neo-R&B movement. This album contains so many gems, like “The Worst,” “Bed Peace,” and “3:16AM.” ‘The Worst” is a beautiful song about her not wanting to go back to her ex. It is very somber sounding, and Jhenè exhibits very relatable feelings on this track, singing “I don’t need you, but I want you.” “3:16AM” is a lot more of a banger than Jhenè usually makes. She uses beautiful and intense metaphors to describe her relationship on this track, relating her love to being on drugs, singing “I hope that we don’t overdose because we never know when we’ve had had enough.” “Bed Peace” is actually one of my favorite songs by Jhenè. It features a great guest verse from Childish Gambino, and the melody is very calm and uplifting and always puts me in a good mood. Jhenè is singing about just enjoying your life and relaxing on this song, and I really love the sentiment. One the chorus, she croons What I am trying to say is that love is ours to make so we should make it. “Everything else can wait the time is ours to take so we should take it.” I just think this over very beautiful, man. Jhenè continued her new wave of R&B with her first full-length album, Souled Out. Jhenè continued to use cutting edge electro R&B instrumentals while using her signature style of singing that almost feels like melodic rapping. It is sort of similar The Weeknd, but I think Jhenè’s lyrical flow and style sounds even more like rap than him. This whole project is great, but the highlights are definitely “Spotless Mind,” which was a single and probably the biggest song on this album, and “Blue Dream.” On “Spotless Mind,” which is very smooth and sweet sounding, Jhene sings about a careless and crazy relationship she had been in. “Blue Dream” is a super low key cut in which Jhenè sings about a guy she needs in her life, singing “My mind is open so wide since you came inside.
I feel so alive. Without you, life just passes by. Passes bypass by…” It is such a beautiful song. Jhenè decided to take a bit of a break after releasing Souled Out, focusing on her mental health and raising her daughter.
After a three year hiatus, Jhenè finally released Trip. At 22 songs long and full of psychedelic and mind-calming instrumentals, Trip feels way more like a full-on experience than a normal album would. Every song blends seamlessly together, and it really is worth it to just listen to the whole thing at once instead of picking a few favorite songs. That being said, I do have a favorite song, and it is “Sativa,” featuring Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. On this cut, Jhenè is singing about getting high and drunk with her friends, and how its all on her. She has money and can give you what you need. This song feels more like a straight up hip hop song than most of her music, but her super pretty voice still gives it the melodic low key R&B feel. This spring, Jhenè released “Triggered,” a song that is about her break up with Big Sean. This song is the first single off of her album coming out later this year. Jhene goes back and forth with her emotions on this song, singing that she is “Triggered when I see your face. Triggered, when I hear your name.” It is one of my favorited songs to come out this year if you somehow have not heard it I encourage you to check it out.
I love to listen to Jhenè Aiko when I’m taking a long shower, relaxing after work, or in a bad mood. Her music makes my soul feel really good. Ever since I first started listening to her, she’s been one of my top played artists. Sometimes I need a break from the bass-heavy music that is so popular in the mainstream today. I really suggest going on a long drive or walk and throwing on one of her records to clear your head. If you want to listen to her music, her Spotify is linked below!
Photo credit: https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/jhen%C3%A9-aiko