Tinashe adopts third eye vision in 333 album coverTWITTER/POPBASE

It seems like for the past year and a half the whole world has been plunged in darkness with no way out. In response, multi-hyphenate performer Tinashe resolves to clutch at the first glimpses of light with her latest offering, 333, an album determined to move forward to a promising future while making peace with what had to be left behind. The ethereal vocals on opener "Let Go" set the tone nicely for an album experience which is largely reflective, its lyrics exalting the value of acceptance and forgiveness while buoyed by live strings and background birdsong. If moodier projects of years past, like fan favourite Nightride, speak to life after dark, with 333 a new dawn breaks.


“all three collaborators elevate the songs they appear on without undermining the lead artist”

As her second album created after departing from RCA Records following years of turbulence, 333 shows Tinashe’s ability to flesh out a concept when in full creative control. Her reunion with KAYTRANADA on "Unconditional" draws on his signature house-funk hybrid only to mellow into a bittersweet second half, the two-part track reflecting the joy and pain of infatuation. Dallas’s Kaash Paige lends a verse on the subdued ‘Angels’, while English newcomer Absolutely trades silky vocals with Tinashe on the title track, an ode to a fulfilling love which lifts the listener to the heavens. This trinity arguably forms the album’s emotional core even with the features: all three collaborators elevate the songs they appear on without undermining the lead artist, serving as a testament to her skill as an executive producer.

The LP also showcases some of the best vocal performances of her career. "Last Call" is easily one of Tinashe’s most effective ballads to date, grounded by an emotive delivery, pained guitars, and lyrics which are passionate without being sappy. Dipping her toe into torch song territory, "Undo (Back to My Heart)" is a heartfelt synth-pop number, while iconic duo Stargate’s production on "The Chase" coupled with the singer’s belts make for a power pop anthem which is sure to electrify crowds in future arenas. Even her more understated delivery, the kind often maligned as the consequence of the lack of soul in today’s R&B, conveys feeling in its restraint. She skates effortlessly on the insistent bass of "I Can See the Future", spitting nonchalantly about her own desirability and building on the sound of her debut album but with a newfound purpose, her eyes set firmly on what she wants and sure of her ability to obtain it.


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While deep cuts like "Bouncin’, Pt. 2" call back to the hazy alt-R&B that Tinashe helped to pioneer at the top of last decade, she also nods to the slinky, trap-infused sound which she flows atop with ease. "Future" and Jeremih-assisted "X" are radio-ready without feeling contrived. But the singer finds herself in her element as she stretches herself and reaches into her broad influences. The skittering drum and bass percussion on "SHY GUY" makes for an energising interlude and leads nicely into shimmering album highlight "Bouncin". The groovy, funk-informed bassline and touches of brass make self-affirmation anthem "Small Reminders" the brightest spot on the album. The track smoulders with self-assurance, with Tinashe asserting “ain’t nobody telling me shit about shit, and that’s that,” over live instrumentation, but still maintains an introspective edge with its dreamy outro.


“a body of work which is at once expansive and cohesive.”

The most noticeable development exhibited on 333 is a hard-earned confidence. The trust she has in herself is as palpable in her production choices as it is in her vocals and lyricism. Broadening her sonic boundaries perhaps more than ever, the visionary manages to weave eclectic sounds into a body of work which is at once expansive and cohesive. Instead of frontloading the album with more trendy songs in an attempt to snare listeners, she is unafraid to nestle slow burners between the more immediately engaging tracks, an approach that makes for a layered album which unfolds over time, rather than burning bright then swiftly petering out. This commitment to artistic and personal progression marks 333 as a triumph. If Tinashe really can see the future, then we’re in good hands.