CHILOMBO (JHENE AIKO)

RELEASED 6TH MARCH 2020

Favourite track: Mourning Doves

A gorgeous album looking at love, toxic situations, break-ups and self-care with RnB backings, dreamy vocals and soulful sounds

I was first introduced to L.A. artist, Jhené Aiko, on Drake’s track ‘From Time’ and I’ve explored some of her independent music since, with ‘To Love & Die’ being one of my favourites. Her vocals are insanely listenable, dreamy and soft and work very well against an RnB/Hip-Hop backdrop. Her new album Chilombo features a generous 20 tracks and the cover art is eye-catching. It displays a ‘natural look’ Jhené wearing an orange headpiece covering her long braids against an equally colourful background. There is something very ‘homely’ about this as it transports us to a hot country and introduces us to the music of her soul. ‘Chilombo’ is actually Jhené’s real last name (Aiko is just a middle name) so there is definitely a sense of bringing it back to her roots and making this album an exploration of herself.

Image credit: Twitter

The first track ‘Lotus – intro’ opens with a muffled audio and then soft piano as her vocals come through. It’s metaphorical and beautiful in its composition whilst remaining incredibly simple. ‘Triggered (freestyle)’ blends into the first track and incorporates more of the soft piano. Her vocals are clearer here and follow an RnB structure. The track looks at how she’s angry at a guy for what he did but how she also wants him. The conflict of emotions is set against a harder beat and light hi-hat as she goes through her emotions. I feel like every girl listening to this track will be able to relate. Big Sean features on ‘None Of Your Concern’ which opens with more soft piano. This one has a Drake-esque beat and really reminds me of ‘Over My Dead Body’ and even includes the line “what’s better for you than me?” which I could swear is a Drake lyric. It’s a very delicate song that explores her own vulnerability and fragility when in a relationship. Then it moves into synth and guitar instrumental, a chorus and then Big Sean’s bit to complete the story from the male perspective.

‘Speak’ opens with atmospheric echoes and FX and then dreamyyy vocals. This one is a song where she does all the stuff she wanted to that he used to criticise. It’s slow and has a romantic structure but is about a romance she has with her own freedom and self. H.E.R features on ‘B.S.’ which has a mechanical piano melody and then soft clicks as she sings in an RnB style over it about how she’s “back up on my bullshit” and how she’s going to “flex on her ex”. Then a harder bass and beat comes in as she adds a little more variety to it as she speeds up her vocals. I love the female vocals and how well they complement each other. ‘P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)’ opens with her being drunk and well…horny af. Then it dies down and suddenly we have a HARD beat and she comes back taking control of the situation. Future and Miguel feature on ‘Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E)’ and I love the beat in this. It’s got a more piled-on, complicated backing and her vocals are great on this.

‘One Way St.’ (ft. Ab-Soul) has a heavy bass that builds up. This one has a unique sound and I like the magic tune FX alongside the rap. ‘Define Me – Interlude’ opens with a deeper, soft percussion sound over her slow vocals that tie in to the Intro in its simplistic and stripped-back style. Dr. Chill is on ‘Surrender’ which has a quirky instrumental and then a HARD beat. Bass guitar and audio open ‘Tryna Smoke’ and then some acoustic guitar comes in, then her dreamy vocals enter. This song is how she needs to get high to deal with everything. It’s so quirky again here but works very well as it holds onto a 90s RnB backing. ‘Born Tired’ opens with “I’m sleepy” and what a mood. It has a Disney princess feel and her vocal work is stunning here against a backdrop of acoustic guitar. ‘LOVE’ is one I think I heard before. This one has a Pop feel to it on hearing the chord arrangement. It’s upbeat, pretty and light. ‘10k Hours’ (ft. Nas) has such an old-school RnB sound with the piano, bass and beat. ‘Summer 2020 – interlude’ has more of that muffled audio, great vocal, light piano combo. It’s gorgeous and delicate. The muffled audio and stillness continues into ‘Mourning Doves’ which is sooooo beautiful but so sad as she talks about how when she made love to him one morning it was the last time because she knew it was over.

‘Pray For You’ is a good song for anyone going through a break-up that wasn’t too messy. She talks about how she still has love for him and wants the best for him but realises they weren’t meant to be. I like the guitar melody in this for sure and how it then merges into ‘Lightning and Thunder’ (ft. John Legend) with the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore. This one is romantic as she sings about how he’s got her under some spell. John Legend’s vocals are so soulful and work so well. He adds a whole dimension to this track and reciprocates the levels of longing and romance. More atmospheric, vocal FX echo in ‘Magic Hour’ which is about how “it ain’t perfect but everything’s beautiful here”. It’s a sweet song. Ty Dolla $ign features on the final track ‘Party For Me’ which opens with MAGIC sounds and such an RnB beat and backing. It’s got Trap elements, rap, vocal work – such a mood.

This album has got both upbeat songs and slow, reflective pieces that look at what it means to be a woman and experience love in 2020. Probably a good album for when you’re in your feelings.