Jezebel Quickies is a new video series in which we get to know our favorite musicians, artists, actors and other creatives in a snap amount of time.
The music industry is a fickle beast, and those at the top aren’t always the most talented. Success often relies on catchy songs, the power of celebrity, connections and sheer fucking luck. But what about an act with the songs, moves and talent, and who’s about to enter the next chapter of her ever-rising fame? That’s Tinashe.
The 22-year-old’s public persona has been steadily growing since her top single “2 On” took over the radio last summer, with her debut album Aquarius subsequently dropping in October 2014. This Spring, on the heels of five videos— “Aquarius,” “All Hands On Deck,” “Pretend,” “Bet” and “2 On”—she dropped her fourth mixtape, Amethyst, both stretching her sound and keeping her profile top of mind. Full of sultry gems about safeguarding her heart and the stress of trying to “blow” at such a young age, Tinashe’s years of effort culminated in Amethyst’s excellence. Now, she’s gearing up for her sophomore album, Joyride, slated for release next year.
“I’m really excited—the second album is a big deal,” she told Jezebel. “It represents a snapshot of where I am in my life. This year I spent a lot of time traveling the world, going to places I’d never been, seeing new people and cultures and that influenced my music with new inspiration. Every day is an adventure—it’s like a joyride.”
The Los Angeles native began her career at three, first as an actor and model (she landed a recurring role in Two and a Half Men, among other films and TV shows), and then as a pop singer. From 2007 to 2011, she was part of a teen pop group called The Stunners before going solo. Since 2012, she’s signed to RCA records and released four mixtapes, most of which were produced completely by Tinashe. This year, she was tapped for a collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign and Charli XCX, and booked as a supporting act on both Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry’s tours.
For her new work, Tinashe says she’s working with top pop and R&B producers alike, including Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Hit-Boy, Boi-1da and Dev Hynes. The performer doesn’t want to be limited to R&B’s confines—much like Minaj pushed her way out of hip-hop’s boundaries—and is bringing out the big guns in hopes of capturing further mainstream attention. While her sound remains a push-and-pull of her voice over various beats, the digital big pop sound of her first single, “Player” featuring Chris Brown, shows her focus on taking her sound global. “On a Wave,” a leaked track with Drake, also seems geared towards that goal.
Tinashe’s next hurdle will be becoming a pop personality rather than just the voice behind a hit song—and this conundrum isn’t lost her. During her visit to Jezebel, she joked that if she’d died during one of her mountain climbing adventures (a favorite pastime), her “album sales would go way up, just saying.” Her morose sense of humor betrays a woman running toward a goal post, someone who might be frustrated that she hasn’t yet reached her destination, but presses on.
The irony continues when one takes a look at the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a collection of the country’s top pop artists. The list is stacked with acts that have one or two bits of star power but often lack the ability to write, produce and perform their own work like Tinashe, who crafted many of her songs in her bedroom studio. Still, she’s found famous fans in Kanye West, who tweeted praise of her “All Hands On Deck” video, and her idol Janet Jackson, who invited Tinashe to perform in a dance tribute to Jackson during the 2015 BET Awards. She’s also been featured in a Ralph Lauren advertisement, and recently she performed at Alexander Wang’s 10th anniversary party.
Still, she seems impatient while waiting for her turn in the spotlight. “I’ve put in a lot of work making my own music, recording my own videos, creating hundreds of songs and performing hundreds of shows,” she said. “I’ve been on my grind in these streets, so it’s great to see things come to fruition. I have really high expectations so there are days I get bummed because I wish things would happen faster. But then I try to remember how far I’ve come in one or two years time. My life is already completely different so I’m always imagining what it’ll be like next year.”
Contact the author at Hillary@jezebel.com.