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Jhene Aiko, ‘Souled Out’

John Davisson

After a promising mixtape, stellar guest cameos, and a striking EP, Jhene
Aiko presents her much-anticipated debut, ushering in a uniquely personal voice to a pop world awash with familiarity. Aiko’s fragile voice has a built-in vulnerability, but her music is determined and searching (“W.A.Y.S.” “To Love & Die”). The set is smartly conceived with a finely calibrated continuity as her songs reflect a young woman in search of life’s foundations; through 14 tracks she traces the vicissitudes of love, journeying from promise through hurt into hope. Aiko’s producers, including No I.D. and Dot Da Genius, create expansive, inventive tracks that mirror the allure of her lithe vocals and intimate phrasing. Despite a tendency toward hazy epiphanies (“I’m cool with nothing because even nothing’s something”), Aiko demonstrates remarkable honesty and confidence. The songs are often grounded in frank sexuality, and filled with healthy contradictions as she navigates her way to the wonder. (Out now) KEN CAPOBIANCO


Ken Capobianco can be reached at franznine@live.com.