LOS ANGELES, CA—It’s rare that we get Tinashe all to ourselves, isn’t it?
Since the 2014 release of her debut hit “2 On” (which was produced by DJ Mustard), we’ve only ever heard her with a fellow musician tacked on and tagging along: Chris Brown on “Player,” both A$AP Rocky and Young Jeezy on separate versions of “Pretend,” both Iggy Azalea and DeJ Loaf on different remixes of “All Hands on Deck.”
And T tends to return the favor, too, having relinquished her host duties for guest appearances on Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” Kid Ink’s “Body Language,” and Ty Dolla Sign’s “Drop That Kitty.”
So I was certain that when I saw her perform, there was going to be a slew of celebrity surprises. A parade, really. And I was certain that all these semi-duets were just panicked and poorly-planned attempts at both achieving crossover success and recreating the magic that was the platinum-selling “2 On.” I was wrong about only one of those things.
As part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA, Tinashe’s show at the Regent Theater on Wednesday Night (November 11) opened with four figures trotting out to the stage in paint-splattered and bedazzled trench coats. They did not make eye contact, they gave us their backs. That was, until she followed, disrobing in only a matter of seconds to the snap-happy and zipping-synth sounds of “All Hands on Deck.”
Her dancers left the stage for “Pretend,” however, so that the blue spotlights and wind machines could be all her own. But even when they weren’t, it’s very hard not to keep your eyes on Tinashe, guys.
She boasts an almost irksome level of confidence that’s evident in every move she makes because, no matter what it is, she does it with a smirk, not a scowl. Even if she’s declaring “Fuck your opinion” on “Stunt.” Or teasing “I know that you miss me” on “Boss.” Or crossing her arms at the end of “Watch Me Work.” But she could just as well be hip-thrusting and air-humping on “Cold Sweat.” Or dropping into a full split on the aforementioned “Kitty.” Or showing off her isolated twerk on “2 On.” It doesn’t matter; it’s as if her entire show is the equivalent of a knowing wink. (Plus, she’s not one to rush through a slow graze from her chest to her crotch, nor shy away from an exaggerated bending over, so there’s that.)
All this makes it sound as if Tinashe’s rolling around the stage relying solely on sex appeal, but that’s not the case. It took me until “Vulnerable,” when she appeared to wrap her arm around her own back to tap her own ass, that I even recognized she was wearing oversized boxing shorts and sneakers—a noted detour from all the leotards and stilettos her female counterparts seem to cling to. Sure, she’s a choreography queen (she can mix her contracting and contorting with contemporary like a professional), but even with a voice that purrs more often than it projects, she commands attention—sometimes literally, like when ordering us to clap on “Dollar Signs” before confetti exploded from what felt like all angles on its rattling rave-ready breakdown.
There weren’t any collaborations at Tinashe's show, but there didn’t need to be, not if the powers-that-be start to have as much confidence in her artistry as she appears to.