Quick summary: One Hitter
Trip, Jhené Aiko’s sophomore album, is an auditory hallucination, where we are witnessing the out-of-body experience of Jhené in all of her raw honesty and introspective lyrics. It’s as if Jhené emerged from the depths of lovers’ abyss to host a psychedelic party, with pieces of her mind as hors d’oeuvre.
Fans of Jhené Aiko have always loved her for her vulnerability, along with the marriage of her celestial tones and in-your-face confessionals. This body of work is no exception. Opening with “LSD,” the project pulls us through a portal where we hear aural loops of memory as Jhené talks to her late brother, asking him for advice. It transitions to the forest (“Jukai”), as we get deeper and deeper into Aiko’s mind, where she shows us the inside-out constellations of what makes love (“New Balance”), pain (“Nobody”), human nature, death, and creation, and how they all melt together to create a beautiful existence that we share (“Mystic Journey”). Each song is conceptual; the present attached to the former but still existing as its own entity. In its genius, the collective body of work is a metaphor for the collective conscious. Through the beautiful metaphysical letter that is Trip, Jhené lets us know that entering the void is the only way out.
Listen to and download the album here:
In-depth album exploration: Smoke Session
Seems to be all we need to understand ourselves, and therefore, each other and the universe we inhabit. And the universe inside of all of us.
“LSD” is an aural exploration, with loops of memory hovering over our bodies. Jhené is talking to her late brother, asking him for advice as she tells him about her struggles since his departure. “All the things you said i shouldn’t do/ but those things bring me closer to you.” It’s an introduction to the trip that Penny will be taking us through, all because of the drug of choice: reflection.
“Jukai” then opens up with sad, melancholy strings. Picture in your mind a vast forest, dewy grass tickling under your feet, as the grey sky curtains the backdrop of your wildest thoughts. Jhené’s painting of this serene setting introduces the idea that the only way out is by entering the void. “Hell is not a place…….but a lack of love.” Is she in hell since her brother left her side? In a harmonizing trance of paradox and guitar pluckings, the singer reveals that dying might be the only way to make it out alive. Dreading this in-between space, but still in nihilism, there is a glimmer of hope that something is better on the other side.
Penny, penned by her grandmother, is here. She is saved by a man approaching her in the forest. And then we are introduced to bliss. “While We’re Young” is quintessential 2017 R&B that puts us back into the present but still reminds us of why Jhené is indeed her own entity in music. She skates over the song with her celestial “ah’s” and we begin to understand how an angel’s trumpet might sound. Optimistic and hedonistic in the innocent love for her opposite, this track solidifies itself as a ride or die anthem (“We should just say fuck everyone and walk hand in hand to the sun”) that lives on the edge of down-right ecstasy.
….And then enters love, not yet bloomed but in full budding. “Love is the answer.” With their release of Twenty88 in 2016, it was evident that Jhené and Big Sean were soulmates in the studio and, not to our surprise, in waking life. “Moments” is like being lost in a slow motion kiss. Jhené and Sean create a venn diagram of sound – wet, sexy, tasteful – as their individual styles marry each other, beautifully. We get lost in a slow motion kiss and then lose track of time. “OLLA” is a post-apocalyptic love song. Think jazzercise on acid. Los Angeles on fire, under the moon, melting in technicolor. Though very different than Jhené’s usual sensual and slow ballads, it is a gorgeous contrast. She shows her versatility of sound with this 80’s-esque pop ballad. Twenty88 re-emerges and dances on top of a synthesized star, reminding us of the fun 2-step that love makes us do.
After the fire we sit in the destruction and taste the ashes of reality. “When We Love” is the audible feeling of sitting in love after the fall and beginning to accept our lover for the flaws and shortcomings. Jhené never knew a love so good, though she pleads to her lover to not “choose me then use me.” As “When We Love” fades, we begin to feel the acceptance of the head high we are put in, because of “Sativa.”
Swae Lee joins Jhené on the hit of the album, their melodies producing a slow burn, a vibration in our throat from hitting too hard. Don’t concentrate too hard on this one; its subtleties are what makes it melt into your subconscious and relax you. “New Balance,” the next track, continues that ethereal loosening of the soul. Jhené wrote a love letter to the peace that comes in her life with love; a true balance that resonates and only gets greater with gratitude (“Newer Balance”).
As we get deeper into the trance, “You Are Here” rides the alpha wave. Deeper into the trip, deeper into thought and analyzing the connection, it comes as a part of the psychedelic experience when we begin to question our surroundings and the people around us. “I hope you are who you say you are.” Shadow thoughts begin to creep and then manifest into full-blown energy on “Never Call Me” and “Nobody,” once we’re revealed to the true face of the one we loved and trusted. With a self-affirming voicemail from Kurupt, we take a dive into the waters that have flooded all of our lives before: detaching ourselves from our ex. Petite but powerful Jhene speaks to that “fuckboy” energy as she comes to realization. It’s a beautiful representation of the duality of anger and still wanting to know why it didn’t work out with so-and-so. “You should have called me/ why you didn’t call me?” In the flame of anger, we are a slave to pain. “Nobody” is a more self-serving anecdote that illustrates the lonely part of the high. Pride and ego rages and you’re left to let the flame that burnt the bridge consume you. Jhené gives us a look into the trips of pain killers and the invincibility we seem to gain from our own pain…
We’re left alone in the white room of our own head, with our own voice bouncing off walls to hear ourselves speak. Everything moves slow around us but we are left to face the truth. “Overstimulated” is the hallway before a “Bad Trip,” when unmasked broken promises, unmasked faces, and the truth of deceit reveals itself. You begin to recognize your own doing as part of the universe. Sometimes it’s easier to return to a state of “Oblivion (Creation)” because the weight of experience and knowing too much is painful. “There’s no loving without losing/ there’s no living without bruising.” Oblivion is the only drug to keep us sane. Jhené sings the hard truth so beautifully.
As we fade back to consciousness, we are greeted with more euphoric visual stories, as we witness the healing of letting go (“Psilocybin”) and accepting the present to be able to see the sweetness of being a part of the collective rather than isolating one’s self (“Mystic Journey”). Some moments during our Trip are not meant to be intellectualized but merely felt in our spirit (“Picture Perfect”, “Sing To Me”). As we are able to recognize the universal beauty that lives inside of our experiences, our surroundings, our own soul, we can raise our “Frequency” to release more positivity and speak life unto others. Speaking in spiritual and metaphysical tongues, Jhené sends us off with affirmations of love, witnessing a prayer of song that binds consciousness and the beauty of the unknown hand in hand. In the coming down, we usually rise – to the occasion, to face ourselves, to understanding. “Ascension” requires actions of us to elevate higher. The universe always finds us in our time of need so that we can get back to our highest selves, and recognize it was right where we were before we left on the Trip…
In all its conceptuality, with the songs blending into one dream, each track is a distinct hallucination on its own. At culmination, Jhené is able to tie in all the emotions that are carried on the journey of life, unpacking the whole Trip at the end to time travel backwards. I believe you can listen to the album front to back and back to front. In the cyclical nature of life, all moments are crashing together, dying, exploding, lighting up the sky, and being born into each collision. Penny’s realness and vulnerability takes us through the cosmos of our own being; the metaphysical human experience…
Watch Jhené’s short film, “Trip,” below.
Olivia Jade is a writer, lover, and creative based on the Left Coast. Connect with her here.