Jhené Aiko is one of the few artists who is able to recreate themselves within their music. The music is free, spontaneous and devoid of any real form, just like its creator, who carries herself as if rules are mere suggestions.
After going three years with no new solo material, Jhené surprised the world with an emotionally charged short film titled “Trip.” Before her fans could fully process her reemergence, the unpredictable Jhené released her second studio album, which shared the same name and plot as her short film.
“Trip” is a story of loss, love and LSD, featuring a Jhené completely in her element.
“Trip” conceptually follows the storyline of the short film that preceded it. In the film, a woman named Penny is mourning the loss of her brother and using drugs as a coping mechanism. During her time of grief, Penny becomes romantically involved with a guy she feels can help fill the void in her heart. However, she learns that their relationship cannot possibly provide her with the brotherly love she longs for.
Jhené does a great job of retelling this beautifully sad story on the album. With the help of the cool melodies produced by the strings on “Jukai” and Jhené’s poetic words, the listener is able to envision the metaphysical forest that entraps Penny.
The song “OLLA” perfectly captures the euphoric state that Jhené experiences with her new found love. The sequencing is so great that one is able to witness the doubts, disappointment and depression that come with a failed relationship. Even though Jhené’s writing is more than enough to drive the plot, skits are tastefully used to guide the listener.
Jhene’s storytelling and the album’s sequencing are nearly perfect, but are ruined by the inclusion of a handful of songs that seem to be complete filler. “Sing to Me” is an endearing song with Jhené and her daughter expressing their love for each other, but it is so far removed from the narrative of the album that it feels unnecessary.
The same can be said for the freestyles “Mystic Journey” and “Picture Perfect.” The two songs are equally cool; however, if they were left off of “Trip,” the project would not have really lost anything substantial. The 22 songs on this album could have easily been trimmed down to 16 with little consequence.
The production on “Trip” is simultaneously captivating and dull. A majority of the songs on the album possess a mellow tone with very little contrast.
Songs like “LSD” and “Juaki” are far from bad, but there are too many songs with the same lethargic sound and slow tempo. It seems the only songs that break up the monotony are the ones where she is tripping off drugs. On “Overstimulated,” it feels as though the entire album has been suddenly awakened, as the bass line breathes life into the track. The random assortment of pixelated noise coupled with the hazy undertones builds a trippy sound that is reminiscent of a Travis Scott produced song. “Psilocybin,” on the other hand, explores a wavier sound as the song inspires visions of sitting crossed-legged at Burning Man.
“Trip” gives the listener the full Jhené Aiko experience. While Jhené interweaves this interesting narrative into the concept of the album, she remains as poetic as ever. She still floats over windy instrumentals using her light but sweet singing voice. However, all of this feels a tad bit redundant over the course of 22 songs. Although continuity tends to be a good thing, it would have been nice to see the already spontaneous Jhené take more risks.