Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jhené Aiko once before when she opened for Solange a couple years back so it was great to see her now and witness the huge following she’s collected over the short span.
Jhené played midday on the Sunday of Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival’s first weekend, which happened to be one of my last shows before calling it a wrap for ACL and Austin. Some mentioned how it may be difficult for a moody artist such as Jhené to play a festival show. With such a diverse, eclectic group of multi-generational fans, she clearly had no such issue. Sure, the music can be a bit dreary and bleak for some, but everyone I could see was hanging on to each and every word as Aiko sang, swaying back and forth as she told us her story.
Her set included cuts off her debut LP Souled Out (Def Jam) such as the driving bumper ‘To Love & Die” and latest single ‘The Pressure.” Jhené cooed her way through the simple, yet effective guitar laced ‘Spotless Mind’. Aiko didn’t neglect her brilliant EP Sailing Souls, giving a crowd pleasing performance of party anthem “Bed Peace.” I was half hoping Childish Gambino (also playing ACL) would have come out to deliver his guest verse, but alas, another time.
Previously limited to the hook on Drake’s “From Time,” Jhené creatively infused her own verses to a full ‘Aiko only’ version to treat us fans. Her quick vibrato and perfect use of the natural break in her voice was the ideal match for her spacey alt-R&B. Unexpectedly, she chose to play “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” which happens to be one of my absolute favorites from her. Her earnest, emotional delivery made this one of the standout moments for me at Austin City Limits Festival.
Saving “The Worst” for last (hehe), Aiko jammed through her melancholy breakup staple before paying homage to her Cali roots with her beautiful take on “Keep Ya Head Up” by Tupac. What a perfect way to be sent off with the smooth, soulful Jhené singing me out.
Pick up Souled Out to support the beautiful and talented Jhené Aiko, available now via Def Jam.
– Submitted by Tristan Bolden, Music Design