Tinashe’s Aquarius was one of the most pleasant surprises last year. The young singer garnered a fan base and critical acclaim with three mixtapes1 and managed to translate that into a great debut album. I caught her in the middle of the Aquarius tour in Europe, where she proved to be an energetic performer who knows how to work a crowd without forgetting the most important part of a concert, the vocals.

Influenced by Aaliyah, Mya, Janet Jackson and Drake, Tinashe’s music sounds refreshing in a genre that could use a fresh face. Her music isn’t indie enough to get the horrible ‘alt-R&B’ label, but is too progressive to be filed under the equally troubling label of traditional R&B. Aquarius has that rare mix of maturity, vision and perfect execution. When seeing an upcoming artists for the first time in person, questions pop into your head. How will she fill up the gaps left by all the guest features on Aquarius (Schoolboy Q, Future, A$AP Rocky and Dev Hynes all appear on the record). And how would her vocals hold up to her dancing? These questions make a show of a new artist extra interesting. With Usher or D’Angelo, you know what to expect. With Tinashe, I had no idea.

Around five hundred people paid to see Tinashe on a Friday night in Amsterdam. Her fan-base is diverse; you can bump into a hyperactive 21 year old guy, just to turn around and see a mother of three enjoy the show, but the majority of the crowd is female and has yet to reach the legal drinking age. Tinashe comes out wearing a glittering ski-mask, to the beats from some of her better mixtape-tracks (Vulnerable, Stunt, Boss). From the start, she creates the same sensually dark atmosphere that has become her sound. Backed by a drummer, four dancers and a backing-track, Tinashe puts on a good show. Her dancing skills are on par with those of her dancers and she’s able to dance and sing at the same time. It feels obvious to say this, but it’s something really few artists know how to do. It’s often one or the other, but Tinashe gives us both.

Tinashe Live Amsterdam Europe creative dreamDuring the sixty minutes she’s on stage, Tinashe gives her all. She doesn’t really talk to her audience, besides from a couple of ‘thank you-s’ and the usual ‘your dreams can come true-speech’, but she connects with those in attendance through her music. The songs follow each other rapidly, building towards a climax with her biggest hit 2On. But before reaching that point, she’s worked her way through all of Aquarius’ highlights (Far Side Of The Moon, All Hands On Deck, Pretend and Bated Breath) and has won the audience over.

The maturity found on Aquarius is not always there in Tinashe’s stage performance. The projection on the screen behind the stage, for example,  was amateurish at best.2 She still has a long way to go before she’s Beyoncé, but if she keeps getting out on stage like she did in Amsterdam, she might eventually get there.

  1. She released another one this week. It’s called Amethyst and it’s good.
  2. The tap-dancing part was equally bad. It was hard to hear the taps and impossible to see anything below the dancer’s knees. Unfortunately, because I could see a way to make this work and add something extra to the show.


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