Does Aiko have the best R&B album of 2014?

Brooklyn Raines, Student Life Editor

Whether she is viewed as an underground princess or upcoming mainstream star, Jhene Aiko has grown into her own in these past two years. If you haven’t heard the beautiful voice on a Big Sean feature or  her summer hit “The Worst,” then you may be living under a rock. With her two previous projects,  Sailing Souls and Sail out, which gained the singer/songwriter popularity and recognition, Aiko landed into the playlist of many listeners and fans. Known for her combination of honest lyrics and her comforting voice, Aiko has become a household name around the world. So with her third project out, Souled Out I was excited to hear her new material and wrap myself up in her warm vocals.

Aiko opens up the album with dreamy light strings and her voice glistens effortlessly on the track “Limbo Limbo Limbo.” The listener is taken on a journey through a few of Aiko’s life experiences. The opening track is light and refreshing and exactly how I envisioned her starting this project off.

The first half of the album is really smooth. One of my favorite tracks, “To Love and Die,” kicks in with an airy instrumental mixed with a heavy, dark bass. Aiko’s voice is soft where it needs to be and heavier on the more passionate parts of the song. The song even contains a reference to 50 Cents “Many Men” that may sound odd, but works perfectly with the song. The first half of the album also contains my favorite track “Spotless Mind” where Aiko’s voice is scattered throughout the song beautifully about how change can’t be escaped, my favorite message is contained within this song when she says “shame on me for changing, shame on you for staying the same.”

The first half of the album is done beautifully, with Aiko’s voice the strongest I’ve heard in a long time and is filled with a combination of light. harmonious instrumentals as well as deeper, darker ones. I enjoy the honest lyrics and vulnerably that Aiko displays.

The second half holds its weight as well, even though it contains a few songs I do not care for, like “brave” and “wading,” the songs I do enjoy in the later half of the project are strong enough to carry the weaker ones. The second half leads with the track “Lyin King,” where Aiko brings to light the issue of how a man’s upbringing affects his relationships later on in life. I love the fact this topic is being discussed, showing young girls why some boys and men can not be changed by them and why. Another or one of my favorite track “The Pressure,” may contain the most interesting instrumental with a mixture of hazy strings and a light guitar that works well together. However, the song “Pretty Bird” is by far my favorite track on the second half of the project with a raw freestyle from Aiko and a Common feature that works perfectly, with Common delivering meaningful lyrics.

This album definitely deserves a listen. Aiko shines again, with her voice sounding better than ever before, her powerful lyrics and soft instrumentals. Yes, there were two songs I did not care for because of their uninteresting instrumental and lackluster production, but the rest of the tracks carry the album in a very positive direction. This is one of Aiko’s strongest project. Her peaceful essence and beautiful lyrics make for one of the best R&B album of 2014.