Elevate is the debut album from Ohio-born, Brooklyn-based Tangina Stone, the followup to her EP The Fall, and the first release on Anastasia Wright's IMG Records. She's already garnered enough buzz and performance experience to establish herself as a dope and interesting singer, but aside from that, who is Tangina Stone really? This album finds some answers along the way, but ultimately leaves more questions in its wake.
Elevate opens with a midtempo introspective exploration of self-doubt in "Confidence," seemingly sizing up those feelings in order to move past them as the album progresses. Unfortunately, the next
couple of songs ("Anxious" and "By the Sea") are not the most confidence-inspiring selections on Elevate. The vibe picks up dramatically with the beautifully executed "Exposed," with none other than Nelly Furtado handling the chorus duties. It's a great pairing, and the two turn what should be a sad breakup song into a dance floor contender.
The title track is a cool, get-high-on-life-not-drugs song that oscillates between trap and house influences, "half drunk but whole crazy." "Ride Off" and "KissMe4?" (featuring rappers Crystal Caines and Eddie Vanz, respectively) showcase some of Stone's best melodies and songwriting. The high-water mark of Elevate's self-examination comes with "Black Boy," a song asking a series of pointed questions to Stone's incarcerated father. The core of that inquiry — "Who are you and why do you hate me?" — makes for a powerful and layered song that hangs on the absence of meaningful answers, resolving only to keep asking.
The mostly atmospheric and primarily in-the-box production on the album is decent enough to work well when the songwriting shines, but not remarkable enough to mask the few cringe-inducing lines that pop up. Yet, Elevate is a good record that gives us glimpses of greatness that's still trying to find its footing. It has been suggested that Tangina Stone's true gift is commanding a band and live audience, and there's talk of a subsequent live album in the works. So whether it's that project, seeing her in a city near you or whatever comes next, Stone has enough tricks up her sleeve to earn a place on your radar. (IMG Records)