TINASHE FT. A$AP ROCKY - PRETEND
Meanwhile, Tinashe can’t stop puttering about you…
Crystal Leww: Tinashe has been very good ever since her mixtape days, but she was quickly grouped in with Cassie and Jhené Aiko, which doesn’t at all describe what she does. Tinashe’s always been the girl who felt way too much, someone who can pull every ounce of meaning out of words, even when in the club and getting fucked up with her friends. “Pretend” is the quiet jam to kick off the fall, to remind you of the one who got away. That first “love that never ends” hits like a punch in the gut, and each subsequent “pretend” sounds less convincing than the last. The way that the beat drops out is perfect; it creates a little space for fantasy, a moment for Tinashe to sing with such perfectly intentioned clarity about a fake history and “a love that never ends.” It’s wistful desire at its finest. A$AP Rocky contributes nothing to this song, but that’s fine; I need a moment to catch my breath anyway.
Alfred Soto: Imagine this slow, sad song about supreme fictions with the roles reversed: A$AP rapping about pretending he’s in love with her and she still blew his mind while Tinashe mumbles about doing it. Lachrymose and icky, that’s what would’ve happened, and Drake has specialized in this creepcore, laying claims to sensitivity that are the practiced moves of a serial seducer repulsed by his crassness enough to subject himself to public spasms of guilt. With Tinashe in the lead the speculation is colder, cooler and sadder: she realized what happened first.
John Seroff: Tinashe is poised to ride the “radiohead quietstorm" zeitgeist to a breakout winter. All she needs now is a track that gives her a chance to display a personality, or at least one that contains a serviceable hook. My vote goes to something more in the style of "Xylophone" instead of "Pretend"; the latter is an overcooked noodle.
Katherine St Asaph: “Pretend“‘s arrangement is like Ryan Tedder with a few synths played backward, and you know my stance on that. But you can’t set a song this resigned to an arrangement any less lifeless — you’d miss the point entirely. And yet this still leaves the song lifeless, the same Heisenberg conundrum that makes it near-impossible to write compelling prose about depression. I’m not sure this problem is solvable; oh well. “2 On” still has chart life in it, and everyone’s allotted one bad ballad.
Brad Shoup: That drowning drum loop and general churchy air remind me of “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth.” But this is like watching a heart tearing itself apart instead of just crumbling. The production’s elegant yet full; Tinashe jumps in to demolish, then steps back to watch her reverse melodies and yawping synths finish the job.
Anthony Easton: “Pretend” figures out how to make the melodramatic sumptuousness of string-laden R&B production layer with the emotional reticence of the skeletal beats found in some new hip-hop, an innovation in form that mirrors the problems of desire. The layers seep into each other: a perfect example of ennui and melancholic exhaustion, while never rejecting the erotic.
Megan Harrington: Tinashe is such an understated and magnetic performer. Instead of emphasizing the melodrama of “Pretend“‘s backwards time lapse, she spaces her vocal out and fills the song with longing silences. Earlier this year I mis-judged “2 On” as indistinct, missing all of Tinashe’s subtlety. It’s my year’s biggest regret; her singles are a lit fuse, burning quickly ahead of the dynamite of her album drop.
Maxwell Cavaseno: There’s a creeping sensation that Tinashe’s childishness will be her downfall. Cassie comparisons abound weren’t unfounded, as both tended to have a babyish lilt to their phrases that mewled out in a delighted shrug, doing their best to sound casual at the sensuality they displayed. However, whereas Cassie was all Virgo robot sculpture, Tinashe’s hexed with Aquarian rambling dizziness and just seems to swim around in her textural murks rather than driving to a defined location. Meanwhile, the Zoolander of rap runs through a bunch of stolen tricks and flows, prancing and preening like it means something.
Thomas Inskeep: Tinashe comes off to me as a sad Ashanti — and their names are practically anagrams! Pretty, crooked beat, ghostly-ish vocals, A$AP Rocky doing what he does.
Mark Sinker: The shifting veils and curtains of soft northern light of the sound-stage Martin Hannett gestured into 3D being; the accidental neon glowstick of the X-Files theme tune marking quick-bright vanishing sigils on the gathered dark; Tinashe’s vocal, so languid it’s more or less horizontal, and the negative capability of the call to make up for lack via make-believe; these and other ways to fashion the feel of truths that aren’t quite out there, sure, but all the same can’t be denied.