Aquarius is Tinashe's debut album that was released on October 3, 2014 by RCA Records.
The album was titled after Tinashe's zodiac sign and it incorporates several genres such as R&B, alternative R&B and pop music.
The album's production was characterized as being synthetic with atmospherics and minimalistic beats and electronics.
The album's composition drew comparisons to a variety of artists including The Weeknd and Aaliyah.
Most of the songs on the album were written by Tinashe herself who also served as the album's executive producer (alongside Tim Blacksmith, Mike Nazzaro and Danny D).
Upon its release, "Aquarius" received generally favorable reviews from music critics who commended its production, lyrics and themes with reviewers comparing it to Janet Jackson's work.
The album debuted at #17 on the US Billboard 200, selling over 18,821 copies during its first week.
In 2013, Tinashe began working on her debut studio album. The recording sessions took place in Los Angeles, London, Atlanta, New York and Toronto.
She worked with several producers including Clams Casino, Ryan Hemsworth, Stuart Matthewman, Mike Will Made It, DJ Mustard, T-Minus, Boi-1da, Fisticuffs, Best Kept Secret, Ritz Reynolds and many more.
During an interview, Tinashe revealed that she had been recording and producing the album for two years, compared her mixtapes which she had created in a month, she compared the process with her album as being different due to working with other producers during her mixtapes Tinashe made all the "decisions", but when recording the album, she was working with other "creative people" and had to become "comfortable".
During the album recording, Tinashe recorded and produced at her home studio in her bedroom where she produced some of the interludes included on the album which she described as being "tighter" than her previous production.
During the album's recording, Tinashe avoided listening to music so she was not heavily influenced by the work of other artists, stating that she wanted the music to come from a "genuine place of inspiration."
The guest verses provided by Schoolboy Q and ASAP Rocky were recorded separately and sent to Tinashe via email, however her collaboration with Future was recorded in the studio with him in Atlanta.
Speaking about working with Future, Tinashe said, "I went to Atlanta and worked together on the song, and we wrote at the same time."
In December of 2013, Tinashe revealed she had almost completed the recording of the album with nearly one hundred songs being recorded at that point, she also revealed that she was at the final stages of the album's production in which she was picking and choosing the album's final track listing as well as choosing "key songs" to fill the gaps.
During the recording process of the album Tinashe recorded one hundred songs and in October of 2014, one of the songs that was scrapped from the album, titled "Little Things", surfaced online.
Originally, Jennifer Lopez's song "I Luh Ya Papi" was titled "I Luh You Nigga" and it was claimed that the song was written by Tinashe for the album
According to Tinashe, she went on to an early session with record producer Detail and they recorded the track which was planned to be the singer's first single. Later, Detail was in a session with Lopez and he played the track to her, prompting the singer to like it and cut her version.
As claimed by Tinashe, "they switched the swag up a little bit," adding: "One day Detail calls me and is like 'B-T-dubs, J. Lo is singing that song.' I didn't believe it at first, I thought he was just not trying to give it to me for some reason. I was like 'J. Lo does not want that song, she's not gonna sing that.' And then it came out. I guess she wanted it."
"Aquarius" explores a variety of genres including R&B, alternative R&B, and pop.
Dean Van Nguyen of the NME described the album's music as a mix of The Weeknd's "decadent alt-R&B" and Aaliyah's "seductive cyber-pop".
August Brown of the Los Angeles Times called the album's music "weird, wonderful world of experimental beat" which he compared to other PBR&B singers including FKA twigs and Kelela, continuing to say the album has rhythm and swing "yet cut through with melancholy."
Andy Kellman of AllMusic described the album's musical style as being mostly "low-lit, slinking in tempo, and stitched together with several interludes" which Kellman described as being influenced by Janet Jackson's "The Velvet Rope" album.
Dean Van Nguyen of the NME noted the album's production for being "synthetic" and containing "Lurid, crawling atmospherics led by beats and keys" along with "minimalism, thumping beats and electronics."
Andy Kellman from AllMusic described the production as being "laced with small details, subtle twists, and gradual intensification." Sally-Anne Hurley from themusic.com.au said the album "falls somewhere between mainstream, radio-friendly R&B and the electro, new-age alternative that’s transformed the urban genre in a big way recently".
The album opens with the intro "Aquarius"; the song features a "spacey" production with a whispery soul aesthetic, followed by "Bet" which features Dev Hynes. "Bet" is a "mystical" with "ride-or-die" lyrics, that brushed off "haters".
The song closes with Devonté Hynes performing a guitar outro. "Cold Sweat" is a dynamic song that sees Tinashe observing fake friends and overall sycophancy that comes with stardom.
The song's production "begins at a crawl before evolving into a pendulum of synths", followed by the album's first interlude titled "Nightfall". "2 On" is an electronic R&B song, marking a slight departure from the murky alternative R&B from her mixtapes. The song features "effervescent keys", "synth-string accents", finger snaps, trap hi-hats, electro beats and distant chilly sighs.
The song features a sample of Sean Paul's 2005 single "We Be Burnin'", with the line "Just give me the trees and we can smoke it ya/Just give me the drink and we can pour it ya" featured in the middle eight. Lyrically, the song is a carpe-diem anthem about being "super hyped up, super extra out on whatever emotion that it is."
"All Hands on Deck" is a crunk&B song & comprises a thick bassline and a pan flute breakdown.
Noted to be a shift from more sweet and coy-sounding tracks on Aquarius, Tinashe solicits a snarling technique in her vocal delivery, The song's lyrical content was noted to combine a dance instructional with the subject of caustic post-break-up stunting, namely in the lyric, "Kiss the old me goodbye / She's dead and gone". It portrays a scenario of a woman retaining her confidence and embracing her love life after a break-up.
Standard Edition Tracklist
- Aquarius (3:55)
- Bet (feat. Devonte Hynes) (5:40)
- Cold Sweat (5:12)
- Nightfall (Interlude) (0:07)
- 2 On (feat. Schoolboy Q) (3:47)
- How Many Times (feat. Future) (3:36)
- What Is There to Lose (Interlude) (0:31)
- Pretend (feat. ASAP Rocky) (3:53)
- All Hands on Deck] (3:41)
- Indigo Child (Interlude) (1:30)
- Far Side of the Moon (4:05)
- The Calm (Interlude) (0:30)
- Feels Like Vegas (4:01)
- Thug Cry (3:28)
- Deep in the Night (Interlude) (0:57)
- Bated Breath (5:49)
- Wildfire (3:37)
- The Storm (Outro) (1:24)
Best Buy Exclusive Edition Bonus Track
- Watch Me Work (4:29)
Japanese Album Edition Bonus Tracks
- Watch Me Work (4:29)
- Vulnerable (feat. Travis Scott) (3:26)
- 2 On (released on January 21, 2014)
- Pretend (released on August 22, 2014)
- All Hands on Deck (released on February 24, 2015)
Promoting the album, Tinashe began performing the lead single "2 On".
She first performed the song at SXSW Festival 2014. She also performed it at the Power 106 LA concert, Capital Xtra, Rinse FM, V100.7/Milwaukee's Family Affair, The Vipor Room and Hot 97's "Who's Next." Drake also invited her on stage to perform the remix to the song in Houston.
Tinashe performed the song on The Wendy Williams Show on July 21, 2014.
In May of 2014, rapper Iggy Azalea announced she would being going on tour in April 2015, also revealed in the North American leg announcement was that Nick Jonas and Tinashe would be the special guests supporting Azalea on the first leg of the tour, promoting their latest individual albums. Azalea's disc jockey, DJ Wizz Kidd, was also to support Azalea throughout the tour.
However, the tour ended up being cancelled and Tinashe was subsequently announced to be the opening act for Nicki Minaj on her The Pinkprint Tour (along with Meek Mill, Rae Sremmurd and Dej Loaf).
Tinashe's debut concert tour, the Aquarius Tour visited North America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia.
"Aquarius" debuted at #17 on the Billboard 200, selling 18,821 copies in its opening week.
During its second week of sales, the album dropped to #64 on the chart with 4,950 copies sold.
As of December 2015, "Aquarius" had sold 70,000 copies in the United States.
The album received highly favorable reviews from music critics.
At Metacritic (which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics), the album received an average score of 80, based on 13 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".
August Brown of the Los Angeles Times commented that the album "heralds an essential new voice, one that coheres 100 current ideas about women, sex, sadness and musical restlessness in one excellent album."
John Kennedy of Billboard described the album as "a lustful listen that often centers on either coming together or breaking apart."
Meaghan Garvey of Pitchfork Media wrote, "As [Tinashe has] shed the trappings of distinctly 2010s R&B for something less easily time-stamped, she's revealed a new and very telling set of inspirations, unmistakably the product of coming of age in the Y2K era of R&B, where Janet Jackson and Aaliyah gracefully countered choreography-happy, big-budget smashes with flashes of something darker and deeply personal."
Andy Kellman of AllMusic remarked that "Tinashe's voice is almost always quiet and soft, yet her ability is considerable, and she packs a wide variety of approaches. Another indicator of potential here is that she is listed first as the co-writer of all but one of the songs."
Rolling Stone magazine's Julianne Escobedo Shepherd praised the album as "savvy" and "self-assured", stating, "Throughout, Tinashe's sweet soprano sets up a hazy mood that's easy to get lost in."
Jabbari Weekes of Exclaim! called the album "solid" and concluded, "Although Aquarius may not rock the boat with innovation, it's more than confident in its stride, delivering an entertaining effort from the sultry singer."
Steve Yates of Q noted that "Aquarius has its generic aspects—the creamy vocals, drifting tempos and woozy electronics—but Tinashe's voice is pure and malleable, her lyrics suggestive and assertive."
Dean Van Nguyen of the NME opined, "At 18 tracks, Aquarius may be overstuffed (the ambient interludes offer little) but it's an impressive statement that should elevate Tinashe far beyond the hype that has surrounded her mixtape releases so far."
Despite criticizing Tinashe's "tendency to over-stuff her songs with lyrics that veer cringe-inducingly between being both super literal and super opaque", Aimee Cliff of Fact expressed that "Aquarius is quite a complicated and accomplished album in that it's amplified the potential of the mixtapes, making Tinashe into an unquestionable contender for real popstar status, without sacrificing the weirdo introspective soul that made them so special."
In a mixed review, Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani found Aquarius to be "remarkably consistent despite its myriad producers", but felt that "[t]oo much of the album [...] fails to live up to that standard", adding that Mike Will Made It's and Stargate's contributions "sound utterly generic when sandwiching more forward-minded tracks like 'Far Side of the Moon'".