Modern romance is a tricky topic, and some of the best examinations of 20-something love comes from the music of American pop culture. Big Sean and Jhene Aiko have given a fresh, new look to this modern love, coming together to form the duo TWENTY88. The partnership’s intent was to show this concept through a fantasy relationship across their self-titled eight-song debut. Both artists rap and sing from their individual point of view on the inner workings of the couple. Love, sex, jealousy and arguments are abundant throughout "TWENTY88," with Aiko adding her soft, mousy singing to Sean’s cool rhymes. The lyrics are descriptive, and the couple’s hot sex is illustrated in full detail from song to song.
The album was released on Friday on all primary music streaming services as well as in the iTunes store. Aiko and Sean have collaborated on some of the Detroit rapper’s previous songs, "Beware" in 2013 and "I Know" in early 2015. Both songs were hits, with the two’s vocal and intimate chemistry very apparent from their first exchange on "Beware." This chemistry is what excited listeners when the EP first found its way into the conversation. They promoted and announced the record through a joint Twitter account that released short, 15-second trailers for the album, showing the two as a couple interacting and even suggesting their sexual activity.
Many of the songs play as a dialogue between the two lovers. "Push It" shows the inside of the couple’s heads while they are making love. Bouncing between both voices as they experience feelings, desires and physical ecstasy together, the song flows with a smooth R&B groove thanks to production from Da Internz.
"Talk Show" is a concept song in which the stars appear on a talk show to discuss their relationship. Sean raps about his love for Aiko, while she talks to the host commenting on how he has acted shady with other women. Sean snaps back, arguing that she has her issues, too, and he puts up with them because of some form of twisted love. The instrumental has an ear-catching flute melody flanked by a slow, dominant bassline and a soulful sample from "Love’s Society" by The Natural Four.
Aiko and Sean have an amazing balance throughout the album. Besides the subjects that they both approach from different points of view, their unison singing meshes harmoniously on several choruses and bridges. A later track, "Memories Faded," sees both of them singing the catchy chorus: "I got all these memories faded of you, of me being faded with you." Aiko’s verse on this song is a highlight of the album, as she layers her vocals with an electrifying harmony over promiscuous and tantalizing lyrics before sliding into a super relaxed bridge and Sean verse.
Seeing a relationship completely overanalyzed through these two artists’ personal expressions is what brings listeners back to "TWENTY88." The ‘70s-inspired instrumentation - all of its guitars, pianos, synths and drum kits - shape a timeless environment for love. Big Sean and Jhene Aiko remind us that we are not the first people to go through the highs and lows of a relationship. The album is humbling, both for the artists themselves and for the whole world listening and feeling along with them.