Even artists at the highest level -- such as Michael Jackson, Prince and more recently Taylor Swift -- have struggled with the ins and outs of being a part of a label, so signing a record deal can be a blessing and a curse as an artist no matter who you are.
These same struggles have also been a problem for R&B singer Tinashe, who parted ways with record label RCA earlier this year, citing “creative differences” in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Since then, the singer has been preparing her first release as an independent artist, and the end result could not be a better example that some artists do better without the hassle of pleasing a label.
With “Songs For You,” Tinashe regains complete creative control and is able to show fans and critics alike she’s more passionate, confident and open then she’s ever been. Right away, on the intro track “Feelings,” Tinashe reminds us she’s been working hard and being humble as she sings, “Lately, I ain't been in my feelings / 'Nashe, I've been minding my business / Throw it in your face you gon' feel it.” A perfect way for the singer to show off her own self confidence, but also to give listeners a chance to express themselves in a similar manner.
Throughout the rest of the 15 song project, Tinashe shows off her versatility in both sound and lyrics alike. Like every other Tinashe release before this one, there’s something for everyone.
From showing her honest feelings about love and heartbreak on “Touch & Go,” “Save Room For Us” and “Remember When” to confident anthems such as “Cash Race” and “Link Up,” Tinashe proves to everyone who might’ve been doubting her that she is truly better than she’s ever been.
The real standout tracks from “Songs For You” have to be “Life’s Too Short,” “Know Better” and “Die A Little Bit.”
On “Life’s Too Short,” Tinashe delivers a one-of-a-kind vocal performance while singing about a pretty heavy topic, singing in the chorus, “Now that you're gone, I got 20/20 vision 'bout us / Now that you're here, I can see it in another way / I just wanna feel you on me.”
Her ability to capture the back-and-forth of being in a tough relationship, while also realizing that all couples may not be perfect for each other, but can still be cool with each other for a while is shown in the lyrics “And I know you wanna be with me / And you know I wanna be with you / Life's too short, lil' baby, fall through.”
On “Know Better,” Tinashe gets very emotional about a past relationship and how it's tempting to want to get back together, but it’s better to just move on, singing “Sitting here with my thoughts in a bottle / Every time I take a sip, I'm reminded of you / Like, how you been? / Wait a minute, what am I doing? / It feels different when you're not around.”
The song is divided into two parts, making it a little over 6 minutes. After the transition into the second part of the song, Tinashe belts her heart out, singing “Still feels like I could fall to pieces when I hear your name / Hoping just a little that you feel the same, anyway.” This song is truly a highlight in the album and in Tinashe’s overall catalog. It’s one of the most emotional songs she’s made since “Bated Breath” from her 2014 album“Aquarius” and one of her best vocal performances as well.
Finally, on “Die A Little Bit,” Tinashe gets together with UK rapper Ms Banks for a party song with a lot of deeper meanings, singing “Sometimes I can’t, but i’ve been told I need to breathe / This life ain't something for someone like you and me / We just get caught up in the things that we don't need / Plenty time wasted, what are we waitin' for? / Searching for something in someone without a soul / Running in circles 'cause I suck at letting go / Starting to feel like there's no chance of breaking through / Plenty time wasted, what am I waitin' for?”
On the surface, the song seems like just a fun party song, but if you really pay attention to the lyrics, Tinashe is venting about the frustrations, she, or anyone, might go through as an artist or just in life. The first verse where she sings about not being where she wants to be, getting caught up in unimportant aspects of life and feeling stuck in a rut. She emphasizes this point on the chorus where she sings “Drink, smoke, dance, vibe a little bit / F---, change, ride, die a little bit,”
which is Tinashe basically saying if you can’t beat them, join them.
While all of this is going on, listeners hear a unique sample of Tinashe’s younger brothers talking about the importance of dance. What I believe Tinashe is really saying in this song is that as long as she has the ability to make music and perform for a devoted fan base, she will be happy with her position, and this newfound attitude couldn’t be more apparent on “Songs For You.” As her brother says at the end of the song, “I'm gonna show you what it's like to dance / This is probably my favorite part because / You just get to be free.”