Written by Alessa Frenkel
It’s been 3 years since Jhené Aiko dropped her last album, Souled Out. Meanwhile, she’s sporadically released four tracks over the last year, dealt with losing her brother, went through a divorce and found new love. All this finds its conclusion and reflection in the product of her three-year-hiatus, namely her freshly released album Trip (Def Jam).
The album features a whopping 22 songs and recognizable names from the music industry such as Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, Brandy and long-term boyfriend Big Sean. But that’s not all: In her words, the project is a “map” – a movie, an album and a poetry book. Along with the LP, Aiko released a short film and a poetry book on which most of the songs are based.
I was so excited to hear about the news and was literally throwing my own dance party all alone in my room. Songs such as While We’re Young were giving me life. Jhené states that “[it] is my ideal love situation. It’s also the feeling of a new love, when you’re kind of naïve and first falling in love with someone and super optimistic about everything. That starts the love story in the album.” And it’s true: The vibey beat over trance-like staccato synths and Jhené’s infamous soulful voice mirror the initial emotions of meeting someone new.
The idea carries on to the following song, Moments, featuring her boyfriend and Grammy nominated rapper, Big Sean (“These are the moments in time that we’ve been waiting our whole life to find/That we’ve been searching for all through the night/Just tell me it will be alright”). The unfortunately somber highlight of the track is Sean’s verse giving the whole tune more of a musical relief than a thrilling feature.
My initial excitement quickly fizzled after a few days when I realized that most of Jhené’s songs seemed to blend into one in my mind. Yes, it’s more than important for an album to follow a consistent sonic silver lining but in this case, it feels more like a silver circle drawn by the narcotics that inspired most songs. Nevertheless, credit needs to be given where credit is due: It takes a lot to be as lyrically courageous and vulnerable as Aiko is on Trip.
From the glittery synth-heavy You Are Here speaking about being scared of heartbreak (“Please don’t lead me on/You know I don’t play that/How I’m living, I don’t want no playback/From a past lover, bad lover”) to her reflective track on her failed marriage featuring autotuned harmonies, Never Call Me (feat. Kurupt) (“You knew all along that I wasn’t the one for you/So let’s stop pretending like we were in love/We never shared anything but the drugs/We were both numb, never had anything real between us”), the Los Angeles native doesn’t shy away from being raw and authentic with her fans – a quality that is probably her strongest forté.
Considering most of the album finds its basis on poems also explains the unusual amount of freestyles and uncommonly short songs on the record. In fact, there are five tracks that are less than 2 and a half minutes. From the John Mayer saturated guitar strings on Newer Balance to the psychedelic Mystic Journey that mirrors a true trance to an endearing yet monotone Sing To Me featuring the singer’s daughter, Namiko Love, Jhené seems to have had a myriad of unfinished thoughts lacking their conclusion. But who knows, they might have possibly gotten lost in the apparently constant high Aiko was in whilst producing the album.
To recap, Jhené Aiko in no way delivered a bad album but for the amount of time spent on creating the record with big name musical geniuses over the past three years, it sonically lacks momentum, stimulation, reflects the use of narcotics and unfortunately serves as perfect background music for what it is: simply nothing but a trip.
Listen to the album below: