Tuning in with Leila: Jhené Aiko


Illustration by Yasmin Haq

Nearly three years after her departure from the music scene, Jhene Aiko returned with her album “Chilombo” on March 6. Prior to recording this album, Aiko began the practice of sound healing, a practice that uses vibrations in order to relax your mind and body. Because of this, “Chilombo” includes vibrational hums of crystal alchemy singing bowls in every track. 

Aiko’s previous album, “Trip,” was based on the death of her brother, and in it, she transferred her grief into a psychedelic excursion. In this new album, Aiko expresses her inability to leave a toxic relationship by combining sound healing, hypnotic vocals and strong lyricism.

In the first song, “Lotus (intro),” Aiko introduces what the rest of the album will consist of: heartbreak. Aiko sings about the birth of a beautiful woman in the form of a flower, who is crushed by the presence of a man whose facade is too strong to break. Though this song was pretty short, it included perfect, mellow beats to kick off the album. 

“Triggered (freestyle),” released as a single before the album, is by far the best song in my opinion. This song demonstrates one of Aiko’s great attributions: her ability to express vulnerability through powerful lyricism. Aiko perfectly encapsulates the entire process of going through a breakup and reassures her fans they’re not alone. 

A few songs later, “B.S.” features H.E.R, a renowned R&B/Soul artist. It describes one of Aiko’s many on-again, off-again relationships with Big Sean, her famous ex-boyfriend. Aiko and Sean’s relationship will live in infamy in the pop culture community; the overall toxicity of their relationship is evident to Aiko, who decided to dedicate this song to him. 

“Happiness Over Everything” features Future and Miguel. In this track, Aiko and Miguel advocate for self-care instead of self-deprecation in a relationship. This song, like “Triggered (freestyle),” was released prior to the album. The lyrics “That just lets me know that he knows what he wants” are repeated throughout the entire song, indicating self-care is the number one attraction for Aiko in a relationship.

Lastly, “Born Tired” is my favorite track on the album that wasn’t released prior. Aiko, clearly frustrated with her relationship with Big Sean, sings about being tired of putting up with it for so long. This may be my favorite track because of her strong vocals and harmonization. Additionally, she sings about building confidence in herself before she loses her mind completely. 

Overall, this album combines Aiko’s brilliant talent and various artists’ understanding of what it means to be in a toxic relationship. This album has taught me to value myself before anyone else and to always stay independent.