Tinashe Review – Bald and Bawdy R&B-infused Pop

Doe-eyed innocence and darkness … Tinashe at XOYO, London. Photograph: Robin Little/Redferns

Doe-eyed innocence and darkness … Tinashe at XOYO, London. Photograph: Robin Little/Redferns

Tinashe Kachingwe has packed a lot into 21 years. As a child star, she appeared in Hollywood movies and TV shows including Two and a Half Men and had performed with girl-group the Stunners. When they disbanded in 2011, Tinashe withdrew to write and produce the first of three mixtapes, posted on her website, that transformed her from a forgettable pop starlet into a big name on the future R&B scene.

She bounds out in baggy pants and a bra top that is as dazzlingly white as her LA smile. Her soft, sweet voice on Vulnerable is reminiscent of both 90s R&B princess Brandy and noughties star Cassie, but Tinashe has the confidence and stage presence of a baby Beyoncé, flicking her long curls and seductively rolling her hips. Her light vocals compete with both a drummer and DJ as two male dancers swoop in for some slick choreography. Strip away the polished performance, however, and Tinashe’s sound is moody and minimalist, the lyrics bald and bawdy.

She plays the good girl-turned-bad for Boss, spitting out the refrain: “Fuck you think I am? Fuck you think I am?” Stunt (Black Water), meanwhile, is far bolder and more bruising live than the ethereal original, and it incorporates a snippet of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River. She nods to her old-skool influences with samples of Tupac’s California Love and Show Me Love by Robin S, but her blend of doe-eyed innocence and darkness keeps her contemporary.

The song 2 On, released earlier this year, lifted her from underground to mainstream success, and here the crowd sing every hedonistic word back at her. An encore of Pretend marks the live debut for the “just dropped” single, which is a great pop song with an earworm chorus but is tamer and more traditional than previous material. With her debut album, Aquarius, out in October, the question will be whether Tinashe can achieve the fame she deserves and maintain her bite that makes her different.


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