By Joseph Gray //
Jhené Aiko really, really, really didn’t want to leave her home.
A rare, chilly breeze hawked through LA, but it wasn’t that or the pre-Thanksgiving traffic preventing the alluring Ladera Heights singer-songwriter from avoiding La Brea Ave. or the 101 freeway. Most of the city’s residents would empathize with either headache, but when you’re enjoying an ambiance-filled dwelling with a harp, cello, drums, stylish candles and feathery smoke all while being surrounded by some of your closest friends on a bunch of plush couches and bean bags, it becomes even more understandable.
Lucky for Aiko (and more importantly for us as spectators), Red Bull Sound Select decided to double their duties as a temporary moving company. Ever the gracious host, she was more than agreeable to the modification, welcoming her new hometown friends to a cozy world decorated with special guests and blue party cups of engaging melodies for a living room “jam” that will not be soon forgotten.
While much of Red Bull Sound Select’s annual 30 Days in LA series focuses on providing a platform for up-and-coming artists, Hollywood’s historic and spacious club Avalon offered a whole different feel for the fully formed Aiko. With tie-dyed merchandise of Aiko’s face being sold inside and self-embroidered shirts being hustled outside, the show felt surprisingly big, unforeseen only because Aiko’s music — delicate, sly and often vulnerable — is not what you would imagine ringing throughout the multilevel venue that routinely hosts DJs with frenetic and flashy light shows to entertain raging partygoers. On this night though, it was perfect.
Slipping to the front of her foggy living room a little after 10 p.m. to excited screams, Aiko tucked away any of those doubts into a satiny topcoat while also keeping her footing atop slow-dripping piano keys. Kicking things off with “New Balance”, she patiently explored unexpected love on the fan-favorite opener that she was pushed to release in August by TWENTY88 collaborator and G.O.O.D. Music rapper Big Sean.
It’s been said that it’s not a true house party until the arrival of unexpected guests. There are those you turn the music down for before escorting out and those whom you hand the mic to in order to keep things going, and Aiko opted for the latter in sticking with the theme of the night. Big Sean, the Detroit emcee and second half to her conceptual relationship, joined his rumored real-life beau as the two traded pleasant yearnings, playful remarks, embraces and back-and-forth vibes during their onstage collaboration that was highlighted by “On the Way” from Aiko’s self-titled studio album, which was released earlier this year.
Despite her soothing and beautifully gentle voice, Aiko’s music is not just seeped in ballads of love found or love lost. Sex, infidelity, drugs, encouragement, motherhood and more subjects fuse together to produce a great sense of relatability to her audience, which she played to by having intimate and good-natured conversations with the audience during her hour-long set. The evening was capped off with more fun in the form of R&B singer Omarion’s “Post to Be” featuring Aiko and Grammy winner Chris Brown, who emerged onstage with his signature pizzazz for a slowed-down acoustic version of the platinum smash.
This, like the rest of Aiko’s performance, was backed by a badass band, as each member took turns soloing to keep the good energy flowing all night. Between standout songs “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestlye)”, “The Worst” and “The Vapors” (which Long Beach rapper Vince Staples joined her for) from her Sail Out EP and its LP predecessor Souled Out, her living room party also became a lesson in welcoming the complex rewards and penalties of susceptibility.
“Maybe I have made mistakes and been through my fair share of pain. But all in all, it’s been OK, I’ve lived well,” Aiko sang, flashing a slight smile that matched the evening’s appreciative vibe over “Eternal Sunshine”.
Nevertheless, prior to kicking us out, Aiko wanted to make sure we got home safely.
“I stay up all night for you, I’m a trooper. Call and request, I pick up, pull up quick as Uber,” said Aiko, turning the aggressive line from her recently released and sensual single “Maniac” into a PSA for concertgoers to make sure they find a safe way to get home.
And before we left, Aiko gave out gift bags in the form of song requests from the crowd as she morphed into an old-school lounge singer. Stepping back into the cold air before hopping into an Uber, my driver asked me where I was coming from.
“The coolest house party I’ve been to in a while,” I told him.
Living Room Flow
Déjà Vu (TWENTY88 cover) (with Big Sean)
On the Way (TWENTY88 cover) (with Big Sean)
Comfort Inn Ending
Vapors (with Vince Staples)
Drunk Texting / Post to Be / Drunk Texting Breakdown (with Chris Brown)