Souled Out Review
Two years ago, Jhene Aiko released her debut album, "Souled Out." At the time, the anticipation for an Aiko album was at an all-time high, partly because this would be her first full-length project since her debut mixtape "Sailing Soul(s)," which she dropped back in 2011. Aiko gifted us with an EP, "Sail Out," in 2013, which she said was to bridge the gap between “Sailing Soul(s)” and her debut album. It was an excellent bridge by the way too; it produced her biggest singles, "Bed Peace" and "The Worst," only maddening the hype for "Souled Out."
Most artist's debut albums tend to be some of the weakest work of their careers, but that was not the case for Aiko. "Souled Out" sounded nothing like a debut and that's part of the reason it's such a near classic. Aiko knows herself when it comes to her music; her music has always been very emotional, but she took it a step further with this project. Aiko released one of the most emotionally engaging albums ever in “Souled Out.”
"Souled Out" is a journey. Through the 14 tracks, Aiko takes us through the stages of heartbreak. From missing the person to hating the person to eventually forgiving and moving on from the person, Aiko guides us entirely through the post-breakup phase, something we all can relate to. A very relatable concept which she turned into an excellent concept album.
The album opens up with "Limbo Limbo Limbo." It wasn't the strongest song on the album, but it did lay the groundwork for the rest of the album. Produced by Woodro Skillson and frequent Kid Cudi collaborator, Dot The Genius, Aiko's signature sound is very apparent from the jump. The beats on the album tend to be open and simple; the spaced out synths and drum hits give the song breathing room, allowing Aiko to fully display her vocal ability without being hindered or overshadowed by the beat.
The album has plenty of standout tracks, but one of the best is "Spotless Mind." This track finds Aiko singing about a past relationship. She goes from blaming herself, to reminiscing about their time in Hawaii, to blaming him, to her again blaming herself but this time accepting it, which occurs over the span of three verses. No I.D. handles production on this one, and he did a great job on it. The music video was also excellent, one of Aiko's finest, and definitely the best video off of 'Souled Out.'
Other standout tracks? "Remember," "Lying King," "W.A.Y.S.,""Promises," and "Pretty Bird."
"Promises" was a track for her daughter, Namiko, and it features her too. One of the deeper tracks on the album, Aiko sings about how she doesn't get to spend as much time with her daughter as she would like and how much it bothers her. Aiko leads off the beautiful chorus, and Namiko follows up with a chorus of her own. A must listen.
"Lyin King" arguably has the best chorus on the entire album. Once again Aiko sings about an old flame, but she adds a twist. She talks about how much it hurts at the moment losing this guy, but she explains he's the one that's going to be hurt forever, as he will never know or understand how to actually love not only her but any woman that enters his life. " You will never know, you will never know know" she repeats over a chorus filled with deep bass hits. One of the better put together songs on "Souled Out."
"Souled Out" did not have a lot of features, but the features she did have were outstanding. Only three features were on the entire album, but the best one, hands down, goes to Common. Common delivers a powerful spoken word verse on Aiko's freestyle "Pretty Bird." The poetic flow that made Common the OG he is on full display here, and it was a perfect closure to the album. One of the best songs on the album and my personal favorite Aiko song is one of the bonus tracks on the album, "Remember." "Remember" can best be described as nostalgia at its finest. Everything about the song makes one nostalgic. Aiko's angelic voice on the plucking chords is a soothing sound, fitting harmoniously together and very easy on the ears. The song itself finds Aiko reminiscing on a past relationship, and maybe the reason I love the song so much because every time I listen to it, it reminds me of an old flame, but let me not get too deep, I'll leave it at that.
"Souled Out" is an album that engaged people emotionally in ways most albums can't. It was clearly an emotional album for Aiko to make and everyone who has listened to it can tell. She addresses the relatable concept of heartbreak that almost everybody has experienced, but she takes it a step further. She chronicles her journey from a heartbroken woman to a lady who understands things doesn't always works out and accepts it. She paints stories of hurt, regret, and disappointment, but by the end of the album she is speaking about forgiveness, self-love, and using her past loves to grow into a better person. With "Souled Out," Aiko showed us that not only can good music come out of heartbreak, but also a wiser and more positive you if you allow yourself to grow from it.