Aiko digs deep in “Chilombo” to explore the ups and downs of a painful breakup


Jhené Aiko’s latest album, “Chilombo,” explores the wide array of emotions she felt in her most recent relationship, including the ups and downs which led to its demise. Aiko is nothing if not a storyteller, a writer who uses melodies and soft spoken verses to articulate the complexities of her feelings. 

Aiko sets herself apart from other female R&B/soul artists with her breathy tone and refreshingly candid lyrics. The introductory track of her album, “Lotus,” details a prologue that allows the listener to better understand how her relationship changed her, and sets the tone for the rest of the tracks. “Her heart was golden, deep as the ocean / And then this one man, he came and broke it / ‘Til it was open, just like a lotus.”

From there she delves into a freestyle song rightfully named “Triggered,” where Aiko explores the ups and downs of a breakup, as well all the emotions that are included in the process of letting someone go. Many of the songs on the album are a reflection of her own self-professed ignorance, claiming that she, “Knew from the beginning / You’d ruin everything, you do it every time / You are my enemy, you are no friend of mind”.

Unlike her previous album, “Trip,” which offers listeners a more lighthearted view of love and loss, Chilombo delves into the deeper emotions and the confusion which surrounds heartbreak. Aiko emerges as a matured woman who is not afraid to explore the difficulties which go along with deep love, and shies away from the original tone of “Trip,” which offered up more childlike sentiments of love through rose-colored glasses. 

The lyrics of “None of Your Concern” showcase Aiko’s now rather grown up views on love, and the reality that sinks in when she realizes that her ex cannot be a concern of hers anymore— and vice versa. As the album progresses, Aiko begins to fume at the mistreatment she has endured, and sings of the love that wore off and the anger that came to take its place. 

Back up on the scene / Done dealing with you / Don’t know how to deal with me…. It seem like I give so much and don’t get nothin’ back / I really thought it was love but you’re so [expletive] whack”

A major theme in this album is honesty—with oneself as well as with the listener. Aiko is candid in her discussion of the ways in which she lost herself in the relationship, and in the expectations of her partner. “Try me / You cannot define me / I can tell you’re trying / [I’m] rising despite your denying.”

Aiko sings of the girl who replaced her and takes a new perspective from the one she previously had, declaring through silky melodies that seeing his other girl “boosts her self esteem.” It’s this newfound confidence that drives the remainder of the album, as Aiko switches between singing of the sentiments of a girl who has experienced heartbreak and betrayal, to a woman who knows herself and her worth. 

The track “LOVE” propels the album’s second half, which turns the tide to a more optimistic approach to love and loss. “I am more than my emotions / I know I am in control when / I am living in the moment / Dedicated and devoted / Praying often, staying open / To more love, love.”

“Speak” is an empowering anthem of self love and a separation from a need for approval. “Woke up this mornin’, heart was beating out my chest,” she hums. “So excited, realizin’ / That you aren’t here to judge me, no one to impress.” Aiko sings to herself that she doesn’t need to live by the opinions of others, and that she can decide for herself what she does and does not like. “Speak from my soul, sugar, say what you want, lady, act like you know who you are,” she sings. 

Chilombo offers listeners a new take on R&B, as her sounds beautifully span across multiple genres of music: R&B, rap and soul alike. Aiko’s voice effortlessly carries her sentiments on love and loss to her audience, allowing even the most melancholy lyrics to sound placid and almost serene. Chilombo allows Aiko to showcase her most unique talent: making anger and heartbreak sound sweet.