How Tinashe Misses The Point About Colorism & The Music Industry

Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images/iHeartMedia.
In a recent interview for The Guardian, singer Tinashe opened up about her career. It seems like a typical Q&A that provides insight into the music industry, record label bureaucracies, and creative processes that happen behind-the-scenes. The only difference is that all of these were addressed as reasons for the currently stale state of Tinashe’s career, not her success. According to the story, her sophomore album has been put on hold for over a year, and the singles that she has released in that interim haven’t performed well on the charts. The 24 year-old has identified more than a few hurdles that may potentially have stopped her from being successful in the industry, one of which is the color of her skin.
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She told Michael Cragg that being biracial makes her “different” and pointed to the “colorism in the Black community” to explain why it hasn't fully accepted her. Colorism is real. But Tinashe seems a bit misguided on which direction it moves in. Women with a lighter complexion and finer hair are privileged among Black communities. It’s part of the reason why the women she identifies as her competition — Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Ciara — share Tinashe's light-skinned hue, and why despite her modest success in music, she can still garner campaigns with John Frieda.
However, I hope that some of her valid critiques are not overlooked. For example, it’s true that there seems to be a cap on the number of women artists at the top of any genre, while there's plenty of room for men who seem like carbon copies of each other. Tinashe thinks that Ciara was “sacrificed” because there was no room at the top with Beyoncé and Rihanna. And although all three of those women have put in more work and time than Tinashe, constantly reinventing themselves staying ahead of the curve, she has a valid point.
Tinashe’s assessment of sexism in the music industry is also pretty spot on, and goes beyond the who’s who of the celebrity elite. “As far as female producers or female engineers...when you’re in these studios, it’s all men. It is so rare that they’d not even expect me to have an opinion,” she told The Guardian. And unfortunately, we know that is a best case scenario when it comes to industry sexism. We need only look at what transpired between Dr. Luke and Kesha to see the worst.
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So while Twitter may be enjoying their drag, Tinashe may be onto something. For what it’s worth, I, too, have an opinion on why Tinashe’s career has flopped. I was super impressed with her performance skills and the body of work on her debut album Aquarius. But in her quest to be the next big pop star — she makes it very clear that this is the end goal — she skipped an important step. While she was teaming up with the likes of icons like Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears, and even Chris Brown, she failed to cultivate a fanbase that identifies with her. So perhaps it might be time for her to integrate her strong stance on equality into her public persona. That’s a music career I could get behind.
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